Pitted against Narendra Modi here, Samajwadi Party candidate Kailash Chaurasia is invoking his 'paanwala' family history to take on the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate's 'chaiwala' background.
Modi has been very vocal in talking about the days when he used to work at a tea stall, as part of efforts to show his 'humble' background, with his party also hosting 'chai pe charcha' events to garner support for Modi and other party candidates.
Fielded by Samajwadi Party to fight against Modi in this temple town, Chaurasia says he himself comes from a family of 'betel sellers', while his party workers are playing on loudspeakers the famous Amitabh Bachchan song, 'Khai ke paan Banaras wala' to garner support from the public.
Talking to PTI, Chaurasia said he prefers interacting directly with voters and is looking to unite all betel sellers in the city by interacting with them at their doorsteps.
"I don't believe in talking 'hawa-hawai' (hollow) like Modi who, by holding 'Chai Pe Charcha', has spent huge sums of money on publicity," he said.
Varanasi has a large population of Chaurasia community members who are involved in the betel business.
While Modi's interactions on BJP's 'Chai pe Charcha' platform mostly concentrated on video-conferencing, Chaurasia said he feels he would do better with direct face-to-face interactions with a maximum number of betel sellers in Varanasi.
Chaurasia, a Uttar Pradesh minister of state for basic education, claims that he, "sold paan for several years". He said that his ancestors used to sell paan in Varanasi district and added that his family members were still in the business.
"My aim is not to waste money on such worthless events and publicise myself on television or in newspapers," he said, adding that, "Instead, I prefer utilising the money on needy people like sick patients or those who need money for their
daughters' marriage," he said.
Kishan Dixit, a SP worker, said that the party was using the famous song from the 1978-blockbuster 'Don' to garner support of voters as well as betel sellers for Chaurasia.
"We are telling voters to be wise while voting and open their 'locked minds' and remember that Chaurasia will always remain with them as he is a local and resides right here with them on the banks of the Ganga... as soon as Lok Sabha polls
conclude, these others will desert the city," he said.