April 25, 2019
Varanasi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi will begin a two-day visit today to his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, in a mega BJP show that will lead up to the PM filing his election papers on Friday to contest the Lok Sabha polls.
PM Modi will reach the holy city on the banks of the Ganga this afternoon and lead a roadshow starting from the gates of the famous Banaras Hindu University (BHU), passing through ancient temples and ghats before finally ending in the holiest ghat of them all, the Dashashwamedh. The prime minister will also attend the evening aarti at this ghat. He will end the day with an address to eminent people of the city.
“Main Bhi Chowkidar”, screams an LED flotilla on the river, greeting the Prime Minister with his main theme this election.
Top BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah, top union ministers and chief ministers are expected to attend the roadshow going from Lanka near Banaras Hindu University to the Dashashwamedh Ghat via Godoliya.
Among allies, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal and Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray are likely to be seen tomorrow.
The show of strength takes place amid heightened buzz over the Congress fielding Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the city, setting up an outsized contest towering over the 2019 election.
On Friday, the Prime Minister will address a gathering of BJP workers before visiting the famous Kal Bhairav temple in the city. He will then visit the city’s collectorate to file his nomination papers.
PM Modi remains an immensely popular figure in Varanasi, despite some resentment over a UP government-funded project to widen roads that lead to the landmark Kashi Vishwanath temple – a process that has led to the demolition of many homes and temples in the area, some of them centuries old.
But of equal interest this election in the city is whether PM Modi’s opponent will be Priyanka Gandhi. “The chances are 50-50,” Congress sources have told NDTV, revealing that discussions are on between its top leaders.
Priyanka Gandhi has said more than once that she would contest from Varanasi “if the party asks me”.
Sources say Priyanka Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi, former Congress president, is among those who have reservations about sending her to battle in the very first election after she joined politics in January. But the sources add that Priyanka Gandhi has conveyed strongly that she is not worried about winning or losing.
It is not clear if the opposition “gathbandhan” (alliance) of Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s BSP will back Priyanka Gandhi and withdraw their own candidate. On Monday, the Samajwadi Party named Shalini Yadav, the daughter-in-law of a former Congress lawmaker, as the opposition candidate from Varanasi.
In 2014, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal was Mr Modi’s main opponent in Varanasi. He managed an impressive number of votes but ended up as the loser.