Hindu Nationalist Leader Modi Contests From Hindu’s Holiest City Varanasi in upcoming LS election in India


3912Narendra Modi, the front-running prime ministerial candidate of India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, will contest national elections that begin next month from Hinduism’s holiest city to boost his party’s support.

Modi will contest from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, in the north of the country, Ananth Kumar, a senior BJP leader, said at a press conference in New Delhi yesterday. Modi has previously only won elections from his home state of Gujarat in western India.

“Modi is trying to project himself as a pan-Indian leader, not just a Gujarat leader,” said A.S. Narang, professor of political science at the New Delhi-based Indira Gandhi National Open University. “By fighting from Uttar Pradesh, Modi is also trying to mobilize rank and file in this critical state.”

Modi is contesting from Uttar Pradesh to galvanize supporters in a region that is critical to his chances of being the country’s next leader. Uttar Pradesh, a 900-kilometer (560-mile) swath of India stretching southeast from New Delhi, is the country’s biggest political prize, supplying a seventh of all lawmakers in the lower house of the national parliament.

Polls show Modi’s party winning the most seats in the election while falling short of a majority in the lower house of parliament. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ruling Congress party has seen its popularity slump while overseeing the slowest economic growth in a decade in the nation of 1.2 billion people.

Opinion Poll

The BJP is on course to be the largest party in Uttar Pradesh. The party will win 40 of the 80 available seats, up from 10 currently, according to an opinion poll published by ABP News television channel and Nielsen last month. In the past 15 national elections, only four times has the ruling party formed a government without winning the most seats in Uttar Pradesh.

At present, Varanasi is represented by former BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi, who has indicated his reluctance to relocate, according to the Indian Express newspaper. Joshi will now contest from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Kumar said. The BJP President Rajnath Singh will contest the elections from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, a seat once held by former BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Varanasi is where many Indians believe that anyone dying on the banks of the river Ganges attains instant enlightenment and a dip in the water atones for all sins.

Tourists from across the world come to the city, attracted by the more than 100 ghats, or a paved flight of stairs leading to the river bank, where pilgrims offer prayers.

Source: Business Week