It was a huge show of strength — for three hours, a sea of saffron blocked the roads as the crowds cheered the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, before he filed his nomination here on Thursday. They blew conch shells, beat drums, showered rose petals and shouted slogans like “gareeb ka beta PM banega (a poor man’s son will become the PM).”
Invoking “Ganga Mata” in the temple town, Modi later tweeted, “My coming to Varanasi is like a child going to his mother. I have come to this divine land on the call of Ganga Mata.” The city is scheduled to vote on May 12.
Riding an open truck, Modi was accompanied by his close aide Amit Shah, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel among others. This was Modi’s second visit to Varanasi in the run-up to the elections.
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The road show started from Patel Chowk in Maldahiya near Kashi Vidyapeeth. Along the way, Modi garlanded a statue of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya at Banaras Hindu University and another statue of Swami Vivekanand at Mint Tihara.
The crowd included many from neighbouring districts like Chandauli, Bhadohi, Ghazipur and Allahabad. The BJP’s minority cell ensured that over a thousand Muslims, including weavers from Bajardiha and some other areas, also participated in the road show.
“Till now, I have never been a part of a nomination procession. I have seen many leaders come and go, but this is historic,” said an RSS worker Harsh Singh.
“I have been retired for the last several years. I would have never attended any political rally, especially in this heat. But this is different, I wanted to come here,” said Umesh Chandra Mishra, a former Army man.
Earlier in the day, before filing his nomination, Modi blogged about how he envisioned Varanasi as a “world heritage site” and stressed on the need to promote tourism. “In 1986, the government of the day started the Ganga Action Plan. It has remained a plan, action is missing,” he blogged.
“No mention of Varanasi is complete without remembering Ustad Bismillah Khan… (his) love for Varanasi is legendary. I was very happy when Ustad Bismillah Khan was conferred the Bharat Ratna by Atalji in 2001,” he said. The late shehnai maestro’s family had earlier refused to be proposers for Modi’s nomination.