VARANASI: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari appears to be holding hope aloft for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Parliamentary constituency.
Unfazed by the challenge of the grand alliance forged by Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh, a cross-section of people in Varanasi argues for a second term for Modi so that the ongoing roadworks stay on course.
Traffic crawls in the ancient city of Varanasi, also called Kashi, while dust swirls on highways on account of roadworks being carried out.
Asi Ghat rings with hymns for the river Ganges, with foreign tourists staying glued to the Ganga Arti. People list out works done in the last four and a half years to stress that the grand alliance would have no impact on the prospects of Modi contesting again from Varanasi.
“A lot has been done since Modi became an MP from Varanasi. A lot is yet to be done, and only he can get them done. It wouldn’t have been possible to complete all the works in five years. The change has to be gradual,” said Vikram Singh, a medical student at Asi Ghat.
Locals listed Varanasi bypass, ring road, broadening of highways with a number of flyovers, besides cleaning of the banks of Ganga as Modi’s achievements as the representative of the constituency. Incidentally, Gadkari is the Minister for Surface Transport under whose watch roads are being built with apparent speed, even as Lok Sabha elections are not far away.
“Now, we can come to Varanasi from Jaunpur in the morning and go back by evening due to better roads. The milkmen and vegetable sellers are coming here now from faraway places to earn better,” said Rajesh Srivastava, a practising lawyer.
A few of the youth looked disappointed that employment opportunities are hard to find, yet they stopped short of blaming the prime minister.
“Some of my friends lost jobs recently. The job situation is tough. But we don’t see the likes of Akhilesh Yadav (SP) or Mayawati (BSP) creating employment opportunities either,” said Sunita, who is hoping that she would get a job in the Railways, which has announced recruitment schedules for vacancies.
If highways are dotted with heavy machinery laying bitumen and other road materials while black-carpeting the skylines with thick smoke, another of Gadkari’s pet projects of developing waterways is also seemingly taking off with a few commercial containers docking at Varanasi.