Sadanand Pandey, a purohit, and Saroj Dubey, a hawker who sells puja accessories onDashashwamedh Ghat, fume at the mention of the Centre’s Namami Gange, thecleanliness mission for the Ganga launched in 2014, as they are split on their preferences–Modi, Mayawati, Akhilesh-Rahul –for the big day when Varanasi goes to polls on Wednesday.

For Sadanand, it’s the pungent odour from effluents, animal and human excreta that put him off in late evenings after the aarti.The 7-km river of faith that runs along the city from Assi to Varuna with grand ghats will always remain the issue in every election till it’s cleaned.

He is effusive in praises on Modi for at least taking the initiative but doesn’t mince words while expressing his concern as the National Greet Tribunal (NGT) only last month rapped the government agencies for “only wasting public money” in the name of Namami Gange project which was promised and launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he was elected MP from Vara nasi. “A half-measure step is a full failure. Modi is a man of determination. But the reason we wanted to move from Akhilesh to him isn’t convincing. We don’t know who we will vote for now.Tourists still take a step back when they want to take a dip as it still smells,” says Sadandand.

The head priest (mahant) of Sankat Mochan Temple and president of SMF, Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, who is also a faculty in electronics engineering department at IIT BHU, says, “When Modiji and I had met in 2013 before Lok Sabha polls, we discussed at length that the Ganga will be our key issue in speeches as well as its cleanliness will be his first big target when elected. But today, ministers like Uma Bharti are making promises that she will commit suicide if the Ganga is not cleaned by 2019. No suicide can save this river unless they respect her like their God.” He adds, “Our organisation had brought it to the notice of then PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 and then to Modiji in 2014. The same sewage treatment plant with capacity of 102 MGD works when the total disposal of waste is nearly 376 MGD. Even the new government is not releasing the Rs 49-crore project which we envisioned with American technology..