Varanasi (AsiaNews) - "In Varanasi, Narendra Modi is very close to defeat," said Lenin Raghuvanshi, an activist from the holy city in Uttar Pradesh who spoke to AsiaNews about India's ongoing elections.
Today more than 30 million Indians are set to cast their ballots in the country's staggered parliamentary election. Some 18 seats are up for grab in Varanasi, with Narendra Modi is running for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Arvind Kejriwal is representing the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
For most public opinion polls and Indian media, Modi remains the frontrunner in this year's election. A win in Varanasi, a city considered sacred in Hinduism, would be icing on his cake and would confirm the city's reputation as the cradle of Hindu fundamentalism.
However, for Lenin Raghuvanshi, secretary general of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), "Hindu voters are among the most divided. Many of them are really secular, believe in a liberal values and do not support Hindutva," an ideology that considers Hinduism as the basis for a single ethnic, cultural and political identity.
In order to create a "Hindu nation", groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have carried out acts of violence and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in India. In the current election, the RSS has backed Narendra Modi, a former long-time militant in the group.
"In Varanasi, the Hindu religion has been fighting Hindutva, and this is a big problem for Modi," Raghuvanshi said. In his view, "Politicians should be open to pluralism."
"At present, the atmosphere is good" in the city, "and voting is going well. The 'Modi wave' everyone is talking about does not exist."