The Battle for Varanasi

OK, so it’s official. Arvind Kejriwal will attempt a Raj Narain against Narendra Modi in Varanasi. Varanasi claims to be one of the oldest living cities in the world. The city’s official website goes on to quote Mark Twain in not just BEING old but LOOKING old – a dubious distinction, at best. In recent times, Varanasi has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, terrible garbage management being one of the newest. And (surprise! surprise!) that’s the most important issue for Males in the constituency, per our survey.

That brings me to the reason for this blog: to highlight Issues in the constituency of Varanasi. Whoever wins, doing better than the current MP should not be difficult at all (Dr M M Joshi scored in the 47th percentile nationally). But that will happen only if the debate during the electoral process and the MP’s focus subsequently are about things that are important to the people of Varanasi. Here’s what our survey brings up, as the most important issues for the voters of Varanasi, compared with the top five issues across the country, broken down by Men and Women:

Varanasi All India
All Better roads Better employment opportunities
Drinking water Better roads
Anti-terrorism Drinking water
Accessibility of MP Better electric supply
Reservation for jobs and education Better hospitals / Primary Healthcare Centres
Male Better garbage clearance Better employment opportunities
Better roads Better roads
Drinking water Drinking water
Reservation for jobs and education Better electric supply
Anti-terrorism Better hospitals / Primary Healthcare Centres
Female Training for jobs Better employment opportunities
Environmental issues Better roads
Better roads Drinking water
Drinking water Better electric supply
Anti-terrorism Better hospitals / Primary Healthcare Centres

First of all, what jumps right out is that basic amenities are seriously lacking, in the minds of the voter. Roads and drinking water are clearly things that the aam aadmi and aurat wants. And that’s not that different from the rest of the country, since the same issues occur at a National level, too. What’s interesting about Varanasi specifically is that jobs, garbage clearance and environmental issues are among the top few issues. And these are the issues that the AAP is talking about (weaver / sewer / river). Obviously, someone’s been doing their homework out there – and presented the results in the near-alliterations that we all like.

One big segmentation being discussed in this election is that of The Youth vs. The Rest. Here’s a chart that shows all the relevant issues in the Varanasi constituency, detailed by various age-groups. The chart shows the percentage of people in each age-group who marked a specific issue (shown in the left-most column) as being oh High importance. I’ve highlighted the top ten in each age-group.

Importance 18–30 30–40 40–50 50–65
Better roads 0.5 0.358 0.223 0.203
Better schools 0.412 0.25 0.189 0.23
Better public transport 0.365 0.243 0.176 0.203
Environmental issues 0.473 0.325 0.162 0.156
Better employment opportunities 0.392 0.243 0.183 0.183
Trustworthiness of MP 0.311 0.21 0.142 0.162
Anti-terrorism 0.494 0.331 0.183 0.149
Reservation for jobs and education 0.467 0.392 0.203 0.156
Drinking water 0.561 0.365 0.156 0.162
Subsidized food distribution 0.433 0.257 0.183 0.122
Strong Defence/Military 0.426 0.325 0.169 0.128
Training for jobs 0.467 0.291 0.189 0.149
Eradication of Corruption 0.338 0.277 0.203 0.142
Better Law and Order / Policing 0.392 0.372 0.169 0.135
Security for women 0.419 0.203 0.156 0.135
Better electric supply 0.433 0.297 0.122 0.128
Accessibility of MP 0.514 0.311 0.311 0.142
Better hospitals / Primary Healthcare Centres 0.352 0.304 0.156 0.115
Empowerment of Women 0.446 0.291 0.196 0.095
Better garbage clearance 0.088 0.081 0.054 0.034
Encroachment of public land / lakes etc 0.02 0.007 0.007 0.007
Lower food prices for Consumers 0.047 0.02 0.027 0.014
Traffic congestion 0.034 0.047 0.014 0.02
Facility for pedestrians and cyclists on roads 0.034 0.041 0.034 0.007

There is certainly a difference among the age-groups, but the core theme seems to be the same:  basic infrastructure and employment. Yes, the youngest groups seem to worry about terrorism. And accessibility to the MP. But the basic National theme (below) of aspiring for the most basic of necessities is reflected in Varanasi, too, in some ways.

18 – 30 years Better employment opportunities
Better public transport
Drinking water
Better roads
Better electric supply
30 – 40 years Better employment opportunities
Drinking water
Better roads
Better public transport
Better electric supply
40 – 50 years Better employment opportunities
Drinking water
Better roads
Better electric supply
Better hospitals / Primary Healthcare Centres
50 – 65 years Better employment opportunities
Drinking water
Better hospitals / Primary Healthcare Centres
Better roads
Better schools

 

Can we hope that these will be the currency of discussion in the coming debates, instead of who slept on the street in Delhi and who the candidate’s wife is? More importantly, can the people of the oldest living city in India hope that at least their simplest needs are met by the new MP? Time will tell.


The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and they do not represent the views of DAKSH.


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