Varanasi, Mohammad Ali (The Hindu): In his first address to the Varanasi people after becoming the Prime Minister, Narendrra Modi said he had “lots of plans” for his parliamentary constituency.
Varanasi Muslims don’t feel they are part of Modi plan
A large section of Muslims living in Varanasi, however, feel they are not part of Mr. Modi’s plans. The association of the city with the Prime Minister has created a new discourse about the ancient temple town and talking to a cross section of the community there is an impression that the minority community feels marginalised in that discourse.
Muslim reaction to Mr. Modi is complicated by the fact that the community had become almost united to defeat him in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Anwar Jamal, a publisher who stays in the old city, is of the view that the shadow of 2002 over the then Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP influenced the minority community’s perception of him, and there has not been much change even when he became the Prime Minister.
“Muslims are not part of the ‘Modi story’ in Varanasi. At present a large section of Muslims in the city, who overwhelmingly voted against him, are a bit skeptical about him and don’t feel the association with him, which the rest of the city does,” he says.
A random conversation with people on the streets in old city shows that the younger and educated generation is excited about him and wants to own him as their MP, but the minority community largely thinks of him as a “Hindu” leader.
Mr. Jamal said the strong Hindu symbolism associated with Mr. Modi’s personality further creates a doubt in the minority community, which has its reservation about with Hindu nationalist slogans like “Bharat mata ki jai”.
“There may not be any communal riot in the city, as it would undercut Mr. Modi’s reputation, but there is a strong under current of Hindutva on the streets,” says Mr. Jamal
Ateeq Ansari, a social activist, feels that Mr. Modi has never talked about or endorsed the ‘ganga jamuni tehzeeb’ Banaras is known for. “You tell me one single instance which proves that he affirms his faith in the syncretic culture,” he says. “As somebody who performs many televised pujas and raises Hindu nationalist slogans,” adds Mr. Ansari, “Mr. Modi is seen as endorsing, at least symbolically and linguistically, an exclusivist perception about society.”