A vote is something very expressive and meaningful — a citizen’s fundamental right and the source of power in a democracy. But, at another level, it is also silent and banal, for it is only a record of a choice, not of the reasoning behind it. Every vote has a history; when investigated, it reveals an autobiography and a particular style of reasoning that should also be part of the public record of an election. This is a conversation I had last week with a Narendra Modi voter in the prime minister’s constituency of Varanasi.
What is your name?
Do you live in Banaras?
I am a Banarasi. But I live in Babatpur. It is only 20 km from here. It used to feel like it was far away, but with the new, four-lane Babatpur-Varanasi highway inaugurated by the prime minister last November, coming and going has never been so easy.
So who are you going to vote for this time around?
Modi. The same as last time.
Do you vote for the BJP because its leader is Modi?
I have always been a BJP voter, right from the first time I cast my vote in 1989. In fact, Babatpur has been a BJP stronghold for a long time. But it is true that under Modiji’s watch, things have improved a lot in Banaras. And now the BJP is in power in the state as well, so things are done in a coordinated way.
Can you give me some examples of how Banaras has improved since 2014?
Do you remember streetlights working properly in Banaras ever in the past? Now they do. All my life I am used to electricity coming and going in Banaras. Now, for the first time, we have continuous power. This is the meaning of vikaas. Something that improves the lives of all the people.
Don’t you feel that there has also been a deterioration in civic life under the BJP’s watch? That the language of public life has become much more aggressive and there are a lot more goondagardi on the streets?
Sir, you cannot convince somebody from Banaras with such an argument. Here, the practice is to give gaali-galoch to people, to do things in a rough and loud way. That is the native character of Banarasi life and nobody minds it.
You argue in a very persuasive way, Dineshji, and with a smile on your face. I am interested in the relationship between the voting pattern of the individual — especially the head of the family — and the household. Does your wife seek your opinion in deciding whom she should vote for? Or, are you both in complete agreement on matters of politics?
What are you saying, sir? Just recently my wife said, ‘Oo Mudiya ko hum is baar vote na dei.’ She is not going to vote for him.
It’s because of the farmer’s loan waiver scheme announced by Modi and Yogi Adityanath after the BJP came to power in the state two years ago. The loans of thousands of farmers were waived, up to Rs 1 lakh. We had also taken a loan against our farmland, but I managed to pay off some of it. So the bank said to me, aap me toh loan bharney ki kshamta hai (you have the capacity to repay the loan). And no waiver was granted to us. Only because we were honest, we are being made to suffer. This is not justice. So my wife is very angry and has said she will not vote for him. I told her, even here I can give you a reason to vote for Modi.