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The numbers game in Varanasi, Prime Minister Modi's constituency

The numbers game in Varanasi, Prime Minister Modi's constituency


The numbers game in Varanasi, Prime Minister Modi's constituency

The constituency has also been the scene of electoral battles between two prime ministers.

A stronghold of the BJP for decades, the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency's prominence rose further in 2014 when it saw a high-stakes contest between BJP's then prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, and an entrant relatively new to politics, Arvind Kejriwal, who was trying to establish himself on the national scene after successfully forming a government in Delhi the previous year.

The battle ended with Narendra Modi winning by a margin of over 3 lakh votes, but AAP's Mr Kejriwal also managed to convince over 2 lakh people to vote for him.

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Comprising of five Assembly seats, Varanasi constituency is home to one of the holiest cities in India. Since 1957, the BJP has won seven seats and the Congress six times. The BJP has had a near-perfect record since 1991, but it has lost only once – to the Congress – in 2004.

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The constituency has also been the scene of the electoral battles of two prime ministers – Prime Minister Modi and former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, who won the seat in 1977 by a staggering margin of 47.9%. It is also one of the eleven constituencies in Uttar Pradesh which has never been won by the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Strategy 2014

Before Prime Minister Modi, the Varanasi seat was held by BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi. In 2014, the party knew that its path to ousting the Congress and coming to power at the Center would pass through Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, the highest of any state. He also aimed to influence neighboring Bihar and the contests for its 40 Lok Sabha seats.

Having paved the way for the BJP to achieve absolute majority on its own, the seat was decided by the Prime Minister in 2019 and he won against Shalini Yadav of the Samajwadi Party by a stunning margin of over 4.7 lakh votes.

Numbers game

Hindus constitute 75% of the total population of Varanasi constituency, 20% are Muslims and 5% belong to other religions. Its population is 65% urban and 35% rural. Of the total residents, 10.1% belong to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes constitute 0.7%.

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The winning candidates' vote share has fluctuated over the years. The BJP had won with a share of 33.4% in 1999 and the Congress with a share of 32.6% in 2004. In 2009, Murli Manohar Joshi won with a vote share of 30.5%, which rose massively to 56.4% for Narendra Modi in 2014 and then 63.6% in 2019.

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Infra development, and then

The city has evolved significantly under Prime Minister Modi's tenure, with initiatives such as the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor Project reflecting its increased stature on India's political and cultural map.

With Varanasi heading to the Congress as part of its seat-sharing deal with the Samajwadi Party for 2024, speculation is rife that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra could make her electoral debut from the constituency. Although the BJP has also not officially announced the candidate for the seat, PM Modi is likely to contest again from there.




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