Varanasi: As election fever reaches a high in Varanasi, considered the world’s oldest city according to Hindu mythology, the oldest liquor bar here has begun reaping rich dividends from a decision taken many years ago to re- locate itself to an area now at epicentre of poll activities.

While the central election office for BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is right in front of this bar, Yelchiko, the poll offices of other major parties such as Congress, Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi Party, are also in the vicinity.

As a result, this bar is doing brisk business, especially in the evenings and during late hours, while demand keeps pouring in for a few extra drinks till last minute of its closing time at 11.30 pm.

While owners of this bar refused to comment due to political issues involved with the matter, waiters and shopkeepers of the area said the bar was drawing huge crowds ever since various political parties had set up offices in its vicinity.

The business is expected to further pick up as the polling date nears as that is likely to bring in thousands of more supporters and party workers to Varanasi in general and to this locality in particular.

Known as a holy city with temples almost at every corner and in each of its thousands of bylanes, Varanasi does not boast of many bars and the people here mostly depend on ‘bhaang’ and ‘ganja’ on various ghats to get their ‘high’.

There are also not many high-end hotels with in-house bars and liquor-serving restaurants and most of them are located in the cantonment area of the city. Also, Varanasi liquor shops and smaller outlets in the city have a notorious reputation of selling counterfeit liquor and there are only a few established names which are trusted for genuine brands.

Although some committed work by district administration has managed to remove encroachments from roads, the officials have now got busy with the polls and a high-profile election like this means greater focus on their part.

The greater worry for them remains that a possible re-poll in the event of Modi winning and deciding to leave this constituency would further delay the development works that have been initiated but are on hold, said a senior officer in the district administration.

The political parties and leaders, however, remain mostly unfazed and say that these elections are much more important than local issues and would decide the next course of action for the entire country and eventually the future development of Varanasi.

Kejriwal, however, has dismissed as bogus the talk about Varanasi becoming a star constituency if it elects the next prime minister of the country.

He said that none of the constituencies represented by former prime ministers have seen any extraordinary development, including Phulpur, represented by the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

BJP’s Kohli, on the other hand, said that the party’s manifesto clearly states that “our politics is a hope for a better India”.

“Congress has an agenda of failure and fear. They have failed in 10 years and they are creating an atmosphere of fear. On the other hand, Aam Aadmi Party has an agenda of anarchy and accusations,” he said.

Another poll issue that has overtaken local issues is that of polarisation of votes on religious or caste lines.

While BJP is being accused of polarising Hindu votes, other parties are trying to consolidate minority votes and the backward castes in their favour.

Kohli said, “Our agenda is one India, great India and we want to work for addressing problems that affect each and every Indian, irrespective of his or her region, caste and religion.

“It’s unfortunate that in the 21st century, there are still parties like SP, BSP and Qaumi Ekta Dal and some individual leaders who are treating voters of India with a herd mentality.”

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Free Press Journal