Modi Wave may Enable the Saffron Party to Surmount Haridwar Hurdle
In the no-holds-barred head-to-head contest between the Congress and BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi, Haridwar is not just another constituency in Uttarakhand. In fact, it is the destination, the seat of power and the setting for the toughest political contest in the tiny hill state, which went to the polls on Wednesday.
Even though the main contest involves the Congress’ Renuka Rawat and former Uttarakhand CM Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank of the BJP, the voters see it as a tug-of-war between the Congress and Modi.
“The Modi wave will help Nishank to survive CM Harish Rawat’s developmental pitch and his defence of the Congress’ work in the rehabilitation of the flood-affected families. The best part about Nishank is that he keeps his doors open to people. He helps the poor and is with them both in their good and bad times,” says Rajesh Mamgain, a businessman from Doiwala in Dehradun.
Adding to the high-profile nature of the contest here, which has some 16, 42, 848 registered voters, is the presence of the AAP’s Kanchan Chowdhry, who was the country’s first woman police chief, and Anita Saini of the SP. Haridwar is considered the sinners’ spiritual destination. But as the Ganga meanders towards a wider course across the plains of Uttar Pradesh, voters feel that the river is carrying a message of success for the BJP and “good vibes” towards Varanasi, one of the two seats from where Modi is seeking the mandate.
Tejpal Singh, a local business man,cannot wait to contribute his family’s votes to the BJP.
“Modi is the leader the country needs. Why talk about the other parties when there is only one person who matters to voters like me? He will pull it off,” he says.
Reshma, a flower seller at Har ki Pauree, says her loyalties keep shifting between the BSP and the BJP, but when it comes to the BJP PM candidate there is hardly any room for ambiguity. “Modi is not cunning like majority of the male leaders in UP,” she says.
Some devotees describe the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate as “Waqt ki Pukar” (the need of the hour), others as “Samay ki Lalkaar” (the war cry of time). According to Purandas, a sadhu and voter, who lives on the banks of the Ganga, Modi is fighting for the country’s “asmita”, (honour) and “anand” (the ultimate bliss).
“The story of Modi’s victory should flow from Haridwar towards Varanasi. All my sadhu brothers want Modi to be PM. It’s to do with the strength in his speeches and his conviction that inspire people like me, who want to see him win,” he said. Poley, a hawker hailing from a village near Lucknow, proudly declares that he is from the “Mahavat caste” to which Modi too belongs. “If someone uses the word “neech” to describe Modi, he better be arrogant,” he says.
Mamgain, though, has no time to campaign for the BJP owing to his hectic schedule. But he is quite confident that the BJP’s well-oiled campaign in Doiwala and the villages surrounding the Jolly Grant would ensure a comfortable win for Nishank. “He will come out victorious. Except for old Congress supporters, people are ready to flow with the ‘wave’. Leher hai,” he said.
But a facile win for the BJP candidate will be easier said than done. And Rawat’s decision to shift base to Haridwar to personally oversee the campaign for his wife Reshma has energised the party workers in Tehri and Pauri Garwhal.
“He has a magic touch. He is managing the entire show from Haridwar, much better than the Bahugunas,” says a party worker on condition of anonymity.
Moreover, the locals feel that the Muslim electorate in Haridwar and Roorkee could well be the game changer.