I am writing this from the temple town of Varanasi, or as I was told by a long-time resident: the land of learning and burning, the latter reference being because the city is the preferred destination of many to die, and attain moksha.
I reached the city around 11 am, and as expected the otherwise sleepy airport was buzzing with activity. Union minister Anand Sharma was being greeted by some party workers. There was a reporter from a city newspaper who told my cousin that actor-politician Raj Babbar was due to arrive.
I took off for my cousin’s and a journey that should take 45 minutes took around a couple of hours thanks to a procession by the Congress candidate Ajay Rai. It was a nightmare driving.
Varanasi’s traffic is no better than Mumbai’s, except that the roads are pathetic. Almost all those I spoke with through the day are upset with BJP strongman and current MP Murli Manohar Joshi for not doing enough for the city.
One of the reasons why I took the trip was to figure whether there’s indeed a Narendra Modi buzz in the city as it’s being made out to be in the media and whether Arvind Kejriwal will be able to put up a good fight.
I don’t know whether it’s because there’s a vigil on electoral expenses of candidates, but the sights and sounds of the city didn’t show any major political activity.
All of this left me wondering: is what we as news journalists report and carry on TV, newspapers and websites really reflective of the situation on the ground? Agreed, there are many who think Modi can make a difference to their lives, but is it wave? I am not sure. Is Kejriwal giving him a tough fight? Not yet.
And the Congress or the SP? The people I spoke with — and I tried my damnedest to meet non-BJP loyalists — aren’t too happy with Modi’s past, but they are clear that they want a strong leader and they would ideally like their MP to be the PM. Abki baar, MP PM ho yaar!
Pradyuman Maheshwari is a senior journalist and editor. When he’s not chasing news, he’s watching it.