'Chowkidar chor' chant at Priyanka Gandhi's Varanasi march

The unanimous opinion at the roadshow was Priyanka’s appeal is evident, with several onlookers saying 'iska time aayega'

By J.P. Yadav in Varanasi
  • Published 16.05.19, 5:08 AM
  • Updated 16.05.19, 5:08 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, along with the party candidate Ajay Rai (left) and Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Singh Baghel, waves at the supporters at the road show in Varanasi on Wednesday. (PTI)

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday stood on an open truck and clapped away as Congress workers vigorously chanted “chowkidar chor hai” during a road show in Varanasi, taking on Narendra Modi on his own turf.

Priyanka’s road show drew comparisons with the Prime Minister’s show of strength on April 26 when he filed his nomination papers for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat. The unanimous opinion was Wednesday’s gathering was far smaller, but Priyanka’s appeal was evident, with several onlookers saying “iska time aayega” (her time will come).

Women had turned out in substantial numbers near the Banaras Hindu University gate from where Priyanka started her road show.

All along the route through narrow lanes, women stood outside their homes, in their balconies and on rooftops to catch a glimpse of Priyanka. Women also waved at her from balconies where BJP flags fluttered. At some places, women showered rose petals as she waved and greeted everyone with folded hands.

Many considered significant the chanting of the “chowkidar chor hai” slogan in Varanasi, where the Opposition presence is negligible and the BJP is the unchallenged player, especially after Modi got elected in 2014.

At some places along the route of Priyanka’s road show, BJP cadres tried to create disturbance by chanting “Modi, Modi” but it did not have much of an impact.

The Congress general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh was accompanied by Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and the party candidate for Varanasi, Ajai Rai.

Kaun chor hai aur kaun pure woh 23rd ko clear ho jayega (Who is a thief and who is pure will become clear on May 23),” BJP worker Gyanendra Pandey said. “Modiji will win with a record margin from Varanasi and the Congress will lose its deposit,” he added.

The BSP-SP-RLD alliance has fielded Shalini Yadav, who was earlier with the Congress, after the Election Commission rejected the candidature of former BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav.

Not anticipating much of a contest, the BJP is eyeing a record victory for Modi so that it can be brandished as proof of the Prime Minister’s “increased popularity” after five years in power.

In 2014, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, riding the popularity of the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement, had challenged Modi in Varanasi.

Modi had won by a margin of 3.70 lakh votes. Kejriwal had got over 2 lakh votes, while the Congress’s Rai had managed around 75,000. The BSP and the SP had contested separately and bagged 60,000 and 45,000 votes, respectively.

Most Congress workers who participated in Priyanka’s road show on Wednesday said she would have become a “giant killer” had she been fielded as a consensus Opposition candidate.

“Had (BSP chief) Mayawati and (SP president) Akhilesh (Yadav) supported her and Priyankaji contested, Modi could have been easily defeated,” said Harish Dwivedi, a local Congress leader.

Residents who had gathered in large numbers to see Priyanka, however, differed. They said it was good she didn’t contest. “She would have surely lost because now is Modi’s time. She should wait for her time and continue working. Her time will come,” said Jagdish Verma, a tea-seller.

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