Rains lashed Varanasi on Friday. Riteish-starrer Villain released in the two multiplexes Kashi boasts of. But the people of Banaras are not talking of villains. They are looking up to their “hero”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to implement his “Banaras Model of Development” and deliver Varanasi out of its misery.
Modi has told his “team” in Varanasi that he wants to implement the ‘Banaras model of development’ in Varanasi first, and then take it to cities of the Banaras-kind in other parts of India. The Banaras model is different from the Gujarat model.
Prof K K Mishra, head of department of Political Science, Banaras Hindu University, told dna Modi’s Banaras model will marry “ancient” with “modern” to transform Varanasi.
What’s the ‘Banaras Model’? “It’s not a one-budget model. It will require many budgets. Modi has been talking of it to us. Modi wants to develop Varanasi as a World Heritage City,” said Prof Mishra. “He wants to save Ganga, he wants the ancient streets of Banaras saved, its cottage industries -- the handmade wooden toys sold on the streets of Banaras, the sari industry and the copper and brass utensil industry -- saved.”
Mishra said Modi’s Banaras model will retain the ancient and iconic even as it embraces all the trappings of an “ultra-modern city”. “Banaras’ Hindi literature, its sangeet and its cultural heritage, Modi wants to save all of them even as he transforms Banaras into a modern tourism hub. That’s the model Modi has been speaking to us,” said the professor, who was part of “Team Modi” that campaigned for Modi in the LS polls.
Mishra, who met Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday to invite the PM to inaugurate the All India Political science Conference to be held in BHU later this year, said 90,000 Gujaratis live in Banaras with the majority of them in the “sari business”, and that there was an unholy competition between the Banarasi sari and the Gujarati sari. “Modi wants to finish off this bitter rivalry. He wants both the Guajarat as well as the Banaras sari to thrive, and that’s also part of his Banaras model,” said Mishra.
That said, the common man in Varanasi has immediate ‘Budget’ expectations from Modi. He is talking of 60 flyovers crisscrossing the city; of bridges across the Ganga connecting both its banks; of Ganga getting the clean-up of its lifetime; of high-tech townships in the constituency like the one planned by Shine City Infra Project Pvt. Ltd. People, who are not aware of the Banaras model, are talking of the Gujarat model and Varanasi.
There are, of course, in the city, the indifferent. For instance, the Varanasi Development Authority. Tenders floated on its website in 2013 still float, as disembodied spirits. The land registrar’s website is blank. Officials are tongue-tied. It appears that recent visits of PMO heavyweights haven’t spurred certain quarters.
Former chairman Indo-US chamber of commerce, UP branch, Ashok Kapoor says Modi should come up with game-changing ideas, like the ‘Ring Road’ idea that the Congress had once come up with long ago. “Those are kind of ideas people here are looking for. Then there’s of course the sari industry which needs a push,” he told dna.
Journalist Amit Kumar of Zee Media says weavers are in “Modi’s Soch”, and that migration of weavers to other professions is already showing a decline. “From what I gathered, Modi will bring a creative approach to the weaver’s problems. He will see to it that the once famous handlooms, which lost out to powerlooms, will be resurrected,” he said.
24 hours Electricity
To the common citizens of Varanasi, it’s immediate needs that matter. They credit 24 hours uninterrupted electricity that Varanasi gets these days to PM Modi. But certain quarters hint it’s UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s munificence to Varanasi.
For pre-paid taxi driver Sunil Jaiswal, Modi brought Varanasi 24 hours electricity. If there are villains, they are in the Samajwadi Party. Akhilesh, while announcing the largesse, said that he was declaring Varanasi power cut-free to honour 75-year-old MLA Shyam Deo Chaudhary, who had gone on indefinite fast following massive power cuts all across UP after the LS polls.
Rakesh Sinha, public relations officer, Purvanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Ltd., evades the ‘Modi’ question. “Varanasi has been getting uninterrupted power supply from June 1, and will keep getting till June 30. On July 1, a fresh decision will be taken, depending on power availability. Varanasi is the chosen one because it’s a heritage city as well as tourism hub,” he told dna.
Other “24 hours uninterrupted electricity” constituencies in UP are Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Azamgarh, his home district Etawah, Dimple Yadav’s Kannauj, Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi, Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli. And Rajnath Singh’s Lucknow, which in any case is capital where power resides.