Prime Minister Narendra Modi has virtually no fight in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, a fact even his worst critics will agree to. However, a look at his rivals in the electoral contest reveals interesting facts.
In 2014, Modi had 41 candidates pitted against him. The number has gone down to 25 this year but he still has a ‘mini India’ contesting against him.
These ‘Special 25’ candidates belong to various states including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Kerala and Uttarakhand and each one of them is here to ‘make a point’.
Manohar Anand Rao Patil, a farmer from Maharashtra, dresses up as Mahatma Gandhi and even wears a photograph of the latter around his neck.
“I have not come here to defeat Modi. I want to draw his attention to the plight of farmers and the growing corruption,” he says.
Manav Vishwamanav, also from Andhra Pradesh, is another candidate who wants to draw the Prime Minister’s attention towards the plight of farmers. His farther, a farmer, passed away and his mother works as a coolie in Vishakhapatanam.
Hina Shahid is the daughter of Olympian (late) Mohammad Shahid and says that she wants to reach Parliament so that she can raise women’s issues. “I know I cannot defeat Modi but then one should not sit at home just because he is a strong candidate,” she says.
Manish Srivastava has come from Raipur in Chhattisgarh to contest against the Prime Minister. He wants the government to make it compulsory for all government employees to send their children to government schools and avail medical treatment in government hospitals.
“This will go a long way in improving these sectors and checking corruption,” he feels.
From Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Sunil Kumar has come to contest the Varanasi seat and seek the status of a national river for Ganga. “Like Modi, I am also a ‘Ganga Putra’ because I live on the banks of Ganga,” he says.
Sheikh Siraj Baba from Malihabad in Lucknow says he will focus on declaring cow as the national animal. His main issue is conservation of the cow and ban on cow slaughter.
Apart from these candidates, there is an agriculture scientist, Ram Sharan Rajput, from Kanpur, Prem Nath Sharma, a lawyer from Varanasi itself, Tribhuvan Sharma from Bareilly who says he will expose the anti-upper caste stance of Modi and writer Amresh Misra.
Then there is Ajay Rai of the Congress and Shalini Yadav of the Samajwadi Party who are also determined to make their presence felt in the electoral area.