One of the most prominent states having the highest number of parliamentary seats in the Lok Sabha election has the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself contesting from its Varanasi seat in the final phase. This makes it one of the most scrutinised constituency in terms of polling and to see if the incumbent PM Modi will win it once again or not. It also creates a huge challenge for anybody particularly women candidates to contesting against the PM but two women have taken on the battlefield.

Heena Shahid tells people of Varanasi they need to look beyond politics of hate, She is among other female candidates up against Narendra Modi

Its furthermore challenging for women candidates is because of the low number of women candidates fielded overall and an even lower number that does make it to the parliament battling the patriarchal mindset, sexism, trolling, etc. Barring all this, Shalini Yadav of Samajwadi Party and Heena Shahid of newly-formed Janhit Bharat Party are also in the fray from Varanasi. Shahid is the daughter of one of India’s best hockey player Mohammad Shahid.

Key issues

Shalini Yadav VaranasiWhile Yadav focussed on development issues of pollution, traffic jam, etc., Shahid is keen on promoting women’s issues and sports development in their respective campaigns. Yadav spoke to SheThePeople.TV about her key agenda and said, “There are several issues that need to be tackled here including the lack of clean drinking water, waste management plight because of lack of organized agency to look after it, sewage overflow allowing the waste to flow into holy river Ganga. In all these years not a single multi-story parking has been made despite the huge challenge of traffic jam.”


Heena Shahid, Janhit Party Pitch To Voters: Women’s Issues Like Girl Child Education, Sporting Facilities in the city

Shalini Yadav, Samajwadi Party Pitch To Voters: Pollution, Traffic Jam, Water, Sewage Flow

Women Candidates

On the other hand Shahid also picked up on the local issues but she also aims at women’s issues and creating better sports facilities in her manifesto. “There is no development in Varanasi. The sitting MP has only enhanced the posh areas while the rest of the city still suffers from drinking water and electricity shortages. Secondly, Benaras has given us so many legendary sportspersons including my father but the city has no adequate playground or facility. Even the two sports ground that the city has is in severe condition. We organized a tournament in February and literally the repair work that the government should have ensured, we did it on our own money.”

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She added, “Then Benaras’ artisans don’t have opportunities –an issue I want to work upon and bring more work for them. Lastly, I understand the issues women face at the workplace and just generally in terms of safety.” Education is still not compulsory for girls in the society she explains. “There are several people who are underprivileged and which is why don’t invest in their daughters’ education. For them I want to bring in the reservation so all our girls get an education,” said 30-year-old Shahid.

Heena Shahid VaranasiYadav also spoke about the matter of women’s security in the city as she said that it has been severely neglected under Modi’s watch. She recounted the BHU girl hosteller’s case of sexual harassment and added that he was right here in the city when the protests were happening but he took the alternate route. “He did not even take the responsibility of meeting the girls. He says Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao whole those girls are studying and raised their voice against the safety and security challenges they face in the campus,” she added.

Yadav from a political family, Shahid greenhorn

Yadav is from a political family as she is the daughter-in-law of former Rajya Sabha Deputy chairperson Shyam Lal Yadav. She had unsuccessfully run for the Mayoral poll of Varanasi Municipal Corporation in 2017 from the Congress. While her entire family is a Congress supporter, She decided to quit the party and join SP recently to contest for the MP seat. On her quitting Congress, she said, “I found that Congress did not walk the talk and had a different political ideology than what I have. They spoke so much about women’s reservation bill but when it came to giving tickets they have given only 12% tickets to women. Congress president said that they will give the ticket to common party workers but they have also fielded gangsters and corrupt people.”

Shalini Yadav recently quit Congress and joined Samajwadi Party, hopes the party will support reservation for women in Parliament

Alternatively, Shahid is a political greenhorn and runs a clothes boutique shop apart from being part of the political party. A lot of communal politics does come into play in the state. We asked her if she thinks her being a Muslim would affect her candidacy and she said, “One of the several issues I raise my voice against is also communal hate. Today people are doing politics on the basis of caste, community, creed, etc. which is not the correct way. I am totally against it but I don’t think it will affect me at all.”

“He did not even take the responsibility of meeting the girls. He says Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao whole those girls are studying and raised their voice against the safety and security challenges they face in the campus,”

Confident to face Modi

Both the candidates feel confident about their fight against PM Modi. Yadav says that the constituency has suffered despite the fact that the PM is its Member of Parliament. Like we see that the public is angry and how the poor have been robbed, I believe that I have a good chance and I am giving a good fight here,” she added. Shahid feels that it is a proud moment for her that she is contesting against PM Modi. “But we have not raised our voice against any individual but against the politics of communal hate. It doesn’t matter that PM Modi is against us even if there was anybody else in his place, we would have kept our fight alive,” Shahid adds.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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