To outsmart Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal will come out with a Varanasi-specific manifesto. A team, which is working on it, has been collecting feedback from the locals on what should be included in the document.
The aim is to tackle the issues of “sewer, weaver and river” — the decrepit sanitation system, the resultant pollution of the Ganga and multiple problems of the silk weavers in Varanasi.
“We will look to revive the traditional silk industry, which forms a crucial element of people in Varanasi, and connect that to employment generation,” said Rakesh Sinha, party’s national executive member who is involved in the process.
According to the party, when a handloom unit is mechanised at least 12 weavers lose their jobs. This was a serious livelihood issue in the town and the party would focus on it, an AAP insider said.
The manifesto will look at the abuse of the Ganga river, which is a source of livelihood for the Mallahs, Nishads, Doms and others. “The river is at the centre of the cultural and social life of the locals. Apart from cleansing it, our focus would be on its restoration,” said Sinha.
The party is exploring ways to manage the urban waste and pollution from production units which is “destroying the river”.
Also, a party leader said AAP could take up the issue of the concerns of the locals about the Coca-Cola plant set up near Rajatalab in Varanasi. “Villagers complain the water table had been depleting ever since the factory has been set up,” said the leader. The party might seek the views of Rajendra Singh, a 2001 Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, on water-related issues.
Another highlight of the party’s local policy will be “extortion by traders”. “Every other day we hear such cases over here. There is a mafia and the law and order situation is in a mess,” said an AAP activist, involved in the manifesto making. However, how could an MP intervene in a state subject is not yet clear.
He said tackling land-grabbing and criminal activities would also form a part of the party’s policy.
Issues of poor roads and electricity, the party has identified as something which would need the support of the state government and the local bodies.
Another key element that could be included in party’s Varanasi manifesto is a Bill to convert the Institute of Medical Sciences, a unit of Banaras Hindu University into All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Earlier, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) tag was given to the Institute of Technology, BHU after the Institute of Technology (Amendment) Bill 2011 was passed in both the Houses in 2012.
However, senior party leaders feel that the bigger issue is rampant corruption prevalent in the University.
“There are allegations regarding unlawful appointment of people in the institution at all stages and also, diversion of funds from BHU to the private institutions,” said a source. The party is still trying to assess the veracity of these claims.
The manifesto will be ready before the notification of elections in the constituency i.e. 24 April.Eight people form part of its core team. The manifesto will work on the broad guidelines on which the national manifesto of the party was framed.
The AAP team is going door-to-door and taking constant feedback in the five assembly constituencies of Varanasi. It is also seeking inputs from around 50 professors of BHU and Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith University in Varanasi and also, sector-specific local experts.
Varanasi will go to polls on 12 May, the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections. AAP contender and chief Kejriwal will campaign in the temple town from 14 April.