Update From Ground Zero: It Was A Modi Show All Along In Varanasi Today 

by Atul Chandra - Mar 4, 2017 09:01 PM +05:30 IST
Update From Ground Zero: It Was A Modi Show All Along In Varanasi Today Kashi roadshow (Twitter.com/narendramodi)
Snapshot
  • While Mayawati’s rally in Rohaniya drew large crowds, reactions to the Akhilesh-Rahul roadshow may be symbolic of the alliance’s difficult chances in the city

Prime Minister Narendra Modi stole the march over his rivals---the two “good boys” Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati--- on a day of road shows in Varanasi on Saturday.

Varanasi goes to poll in the last phase on March 8.

In terms of crowd, though, Mayawati’s rally was equally impressive.

Modi’s road show on Saturday was reminiscent of the one before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and followed the same route. The only difference was that in 2014 Modi did not visit the Kaal Bhairav temple which he did this time.

As slogans of “Modi, Modi” and “Namo, Namo” rent the air it was clear that Modi faces the litmus test of repeating his 2014 magic to increase his party’s strength from the three seats it won in 2012.

This article is part of our special coverage of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh 
This article is part of our special coverage of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh 

The party holds Varanasi North, Varanasi South and Varanasi Cantonment seats while the reserved constituency of Ajagara and Shivpuri had voted for the Bahujan Samaj Party candidates. The SP, Congress and Apna Dal won the Sevapuri, Pindra and Rohaniya seats respectively.

The Prime Minister’s road show, which has invited objection from the Samajwadi Party on the ground that no permission was taken for it, was described as more impressive by Indian Industries Association’s divisional chairman RK Chaudhary who said that Rahul-Akhilesh’s show was “kaafee halkaa (very light)”.

The Prime Minister attacked the state government for shielding Gayatri Prajapati, the minister wanted under the POCSO Act for gang rape. He also mocked at the UP government for removing the page, which he cited at a rally on Friday, from its official site.

The BJP initially faced difficulty after its longest serving legislator Shyamdeo Roy Chaudhary ‘Dada’ was dropped unceremoniously as a candidate for the Varanasi South seat. On Saturday it seemed that ‘Dada’ had been pacified as he was seen with the Prime Minister in the garbh grih of Kashi Vishwanath temple.

The Rahul-Akhilesh show hit the road soon after the Prime Minister’s.

The 10-kilometre route to be taken by Modi and Rahul was finalized after consultation with the Special Protection Group. Rahul and Akhilesh were also scheduled to pay their obeisance at the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Unlike the Congress-SP alliance the BSP is said to be offering a tough fight to the BJP. According to a local journalist, the BJP stands a better chance in a triangular contest for the Pindra seat where Ajay Rai is facing stiff opposition from BJP and BSP candidates. But in Ajagara and Shivpur the BSP continued to be strong.

Even RK Chaudhary said that the BSP was more in contention here than the Congress and SP combine which is hoping to cause an upset in Varanasi South and Varanasi Cantt as votes polled by the two parties were more than that of the BJP.

Mayawati, who addressed a huge rally, played down Modi’s show and described the BJP’s chances as pipe dream. “BJP and SP-Congress are fighting for the second and third spot in these elections,” she said at the rally on the outskirts near Rohaniya.

Realising the importance of Varanasi, top-rung leaders of the BJP were camping in the holy city as it witnesses the final round of this month-long electoral mega-battle.

Atul Chandra is former Resident Editor, The Times of India, Lucknow. He has written extensively on politics in Uttar Pradesh.

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