Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday prayed at the famous Kashi Vishwanath and Kal Bhairav temples, and paid tributes to Hindutva ideologue Madan Mohan Malviya as part of his roadshow, in a bid to rally voters around the BJP in this holy town of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Starting from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Modi led the roadshow through the winding roads of his Lok Sabha constituency followed by a huge crowd of supporters, as the sixth phase of polling in 49 constituencies, including Gorakhpur and Azamgarh in the state was underway.
With Hindus comprising 80 per cent of Varanasi area’s population, the saffron camp is once again relying heavily on Modi to deliver the goods in Uttar Pradesh where it has been out of power for 15 years.
BJP leaders also feel that the hours-long event, broadcast live on most of the regional TV news channels, will help their cause when the 40 remaining seats go to the polls in the final phase on March 8.
People turned out in large numbers as the prime minister’s cavalcade moved at a snail’s pace. ‘Subah Banaras, sham Banaras; Modi tere naam Banaras’ and ‘Modi, Modi’ slogans were raised by the supporters as he waved at them.
People in a Muslim locality offered him a shawl when his cavalcade passed through it. The Prime Minister accepted it and put it on his head.
Modi later offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath and Kaal Bhairav temples.
“Fortunate to visit the Baba Vishwanath temple. Har har Mahadev. Also lucky to pay obeisance at the Kaal Bhairav temple,” Modi tweeted.
The Congress meanwhile alleged that Modi violated the model code of conduct by holding the road show without permission of authorities and asked the Election Commission to file an FIR against him and other senior BJP leaders.
Additional District Magistrate (city) Jitendra Singh said a permission was sought for Modi’s temple visit here. He said a crowd followed Modi when he was heading to offer prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath and the Kal Bhairav temples.
According to Singh, an EC team was keeping an eye over the movements of all those who are campaigning.
The BJP, which is locked in a tight electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh with the SP-Congress alliance and the Mayawati- led BSP, hopes that a good performance in the eastern parts of the state will take it past the majority mark in the 403- member state Assembly.
The only other time Modi held a road show here was in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls after he picked Varanasi as one of his seats. The BJP swept the 2014 polls in Uttar Pradesh, winning 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats, along with its ally Apna Dal.
Three years later, the saffron camp is once again relying heavily on Modi to deliver the goods in Uttar Pradesh where it has been out of power for 15 years. It has organised many more public meetings of the prime minister than was anticipated earlier.
Quite a few public events of Modi are lined up in the region tomorrow and the day after, the final day of campaigning for the seventh and last phase of polling on March 8.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi also held a road-show in the city. BSP chief Mayawati too addressed a public rally at Rohaniya, around 20 km from Varanasi.
ADM Singh said the cavalcade of Rahul and Akhilesh was to cross Godowlia by 5 PM but it did not.
“Our duty is to see that the road shows and other events pass off peacefully,” he said.