In Kashi, either you are with Narendra Modi or you are not with Narendra Modi. Needless to say, the 'Hindu' stands solidly behind Modi. Without doubt, the Muslim wouldn't touch Modi with a barge pole.
We meet Baarik Raza in Shahanzapur in south Varanasi. He was a freedom-fighter, and a fairly well-known shayar (poet) in Purvanchal till a decade ago. "...Dil Nahi Piglega Kasayi Ka/Siyasati Ka Dil Bhi Kasayi Ka Dil Se Kam Nahi Hota/Maren Lakhon-Hazaaron Par Inhe Koyi Gam Nahi Hota (There's no mercy in the politician. His heart is that of the butcher's. No matter whether lakhs or thousands die, there's no remorse in them)."
The drift of where he was going, and who he was referring to, is clear. "The Muslim of Varanasi is adrift. There was the Congress once. Now, there's the Samajwadi Party. What's in store nobody knows... Look at Madani.. He's speaking, even for the BJP." he laments.
Asked which party he preferred, Raza says, "I do not favour any of them... Only those who have given their lives for the country can tell what's the cost of freedom. If Gandhi was alive today, he would have told you what's freedom."
Raza looks ancient. His eardrums are shot, and he's half blind. But his voice rings. His lament is for a soon-to-end era. His idealism has taken a hit. Raza doesn't say it but he sees hard days ahead for Muslims, unless the Muslims unite to vote against an unknown future that he fears lies ahead of the elections.
We head for village Beluvan on the Mirzapur-Varanasi border. It's a village of mostly Brahmins and Yadavs. The Dalit lives on the fringes. He's not part of the discussion. "In any case they don't count," says villager Shiv Mishra. "We leave them alone because of the Harijan Act."
Ashish Kumar Mishra is a "transport maalik". Kishen Kumar Pandey manufactures artificial jewellery. "Last time I voted for Congress. This time it will be for Modi," says Ashish.
Asked about AAP and Arvind Kejriwal, the villagers laugh. "There's no talk of AAP here. We don't want another Ashwasan Guru," says Kishen. "Kejriwal Bilkul Bakwaas Hai. Ya Toh Useh Rajniti Ka Jaankaari Nahin Hai, Ya Phir Bahut Bada Khiladi Hai. Aisa Uske Baiyanon Se Pata Chalta Hai. Hamara vote Toh Modi Ko Hai," says ex-CID officer Shashank Pandey.
Neighbour Mahendra Yadav jumped the SP ship a fortnight ago to join the Modi wagon. "Yadavs are totally against Mulayam. Even Muslims are not with SP. This village will vote for Modi. Muslim villages like Lohta will not. But wherever there's a Hindu, his vote will be for Modi," asserts Yadav.
The Hindu-Muslim divide in Varanasi has nothing to do with Gujarat 2002, or Muzaffarnagar 2014. But it has got everything to do with Modi, and Modi alone. The polarisation in Varanasi is complete. Stark. And blinding.