In the run up to the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections, Varanasi has been the hotbed of numerous political activities. From roadshows to rallies to even violence – the holy town as witnessed it all. However, the limelight has primarily been hogged by BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, probably because Congress candidate Ajay Rai is not as high-profile as his rivals.
But on the last day of campaign for the ninth phase of General Elections 2014, Ajay Rai had beside him the most prominent face of the Congress party – Rahul Gandhi, who held a roadshow with a massive turnout to support the local MLA. Scores of people thronged the streets and this roadshow was probably one of the first of its magnitude for Rahul Gandhi.
The roadshow was flagged off from a heavily crowded Muslim dominated locality, Pilikothi, at around 8:40 am. The convoy took around one hour to reach Maldahiya crossing and Lahurabir area.
Shwetank Pandey, NSUI president of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) unit, while talking to The Indian Express said, “This is not Har Har Modi wave, this is actually Har Har Mahadev wave, which implies that the crowd in the roadshow is purely local”. According to Shwetank, Rahul Gandhi gave a boost to the youth by flagging off the roadshow with the NSUI flag. Approximately 300 NSUI members were present on the occasion along with a separate team of girls led by Amrita Dhawan.
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According to local supporters, the crowd had gathered mostly in support of Ajay Rai, who has been a local favourite. Youngsters from BHU, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth (MGKV) and several other universities and colleges of the city joined Rahul in the roadshow.
While the Congress leaders are claiming that the roadshow captivated only locals, there are reports of people joining the roadshow from outside the Varanasi constituency. Some of the big names from outside Varanasi were Bollywood star-turned-politicians Nagma and Raj Babbar.
It is also important to note that the area from where the convoy was flagged off is a very congested and minority belt of the temple town. After traversing the Muslim belt of Pilikothi area, the convoy reached Lahurabir and Chetganj areas, the locality again inhabited by supporters of Ajay Rai, who lives in the same area.
The convoy further reached Nai Sarak and passed from Beniyabagh locality, where BJP was denied to hold a rally recently. Interestingly, on reaching Beniyabagh, which is the native place of Shehnai Maestro late Ustad Bismillah Khan and is largely inhabited by Mulsim weavers and traders, Rahul’s convoy was welcomed with a photograph of the musician and a ‘charkha’.
Locals gathered on rooftops in the congested lanes of the city and welcomed the convoy, waving and showering flower petals on the Gandhi scion.
Meanwhile, Rahul also kept the crowd captivated by having cold drinks and local delicacies from the local shops during the roadshow.
Notably, most of the localities falling in the roadshow coverage area are densely populated Muslim areas of the city. The rally is further set to pass from Godowlia crossing, which is the centre of the city, and then it will pass from Jangambadi, Madanpura and Sonarpura localities. These localities are densely populated and extremely sensitive belts of the temple town where Muslims and Hindu communities coexist.