Wednesday 26 March 2014

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 50.0% 35.8% 22.3% 20.3%
Better schools 41.2% 25.0% 18.9% 23.0%
Better public transport 36.5% 24.3% 17.6% 20.3%
Environmental issues 47.3% 32.5% 16.2% 15.6%
Better employment opportunities 39.2% 24.3% 18.3% 18.3%
Trustworthiness of MP 31.1% 21.0% 14.2% 16.2%
Anti-terrorism 49.4% 33.1% 18.3% 14.9%
Reservation for jobs and education 46.7% 39.2% 20.3% 15.6%
Drinking water 56.1% 36.5% 15.6% 16.2%
Subsidized food distribution 43.3% 25.7% 18.3% 12.2%
Strong Defence/Military 42.6% 32.5% 16.9% 12.8%
Training for jobs 46.7% 29.1% 18.9% 14.9%
Eradication of Corruption 33.8% 27.7% 20.3% 14.2%
Better Law and Order / Policing 39.2% 37.2% 16.9% 13.5%
Security for women 41.9% 20.3% 15.6% 13.5%
Better electric supply 43.3% 29.7% 12.2% 12.8%
Accessibility of MP 51.4% 31.1% 31.1%
Better hospitals / Primary Healthcare Centres 35.2% 30.4% 15.6% 11.5%
Empowerment of Women 44.6% 29.1% 19.6% 9.5%
Better garbage clearance 8.8% 8.1% 5.4% 3.4%
Encroachment of public land / lakes etc 2.0% 0.7% 0.7% 0.7%
Lower food prices for Consumers 4.7% 2.0% 2.7% 1.4%
Traffic congestion 3.4% 4.7% 1.4% 2.0%
Facility for pedestrians and cyclists on roads 3.4% 4.1% 3.4% 0.7%

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.


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