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Modi frenzy in full play at Varanasi roadshow

PM Modi took two and a half hours to cover the seven kilometres route of his roadshow that began at Lanka area of the city.

Apr 25, 2019, 10.19 PM IST
VARANASI: The huge popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his constituency was on display during his roadshow here on Thursday with lakhs of people thronging the narrow streets of the city, donning saffron caps, “Modi forever” T-shirts and shouting slogans amid beating of drums.

Modi took two and a half hours to cover the seven kilometres route of his roadshow that began at Lanka area of the city. He garlanded the statue of Madan Mohan Malviya, who founded the Benares Hindu University and is considered a Hindu right-wing icon, before starting his yatra from the varsity gate. Though there was a delay of two hours as Modi reached the city after addressing rallies in Darbhanga (Bihar) and Banda (Bundekhand, UP).

A rare frenzy and excitement was visible in the crowd as it cheered the Prime Minister along the way to the Dhasasvamedh Ghat where the Ganga Aarti was to be performed. Though Modi has performed the aarti in the past, as he reached much after the set time for the prayers, he had to sit and watch along with BJP Chief Amit Shah and other top party leaders. Later, he performed the aarti.

BJP had made elaborate arrangements for the roadshow. Police officers said the processes of putting up barricades had begun on Tuesday, two days before the event. There were a sizable number of people from nearby districts who had gathered to welcome Modi. Many of them were brought to the city by the party.

Shopkeepers, preferring anonymity, said BJP workers had distributed kilos of packets of flowers and rose petals to be showered on the Prime Minister. The streets were strewn with them after Modi had gone past. Modi merchandise was also given away to volunteers and party supporters. These included T-shirts in white and saffron colours with the slogan- “Main Bhi Chowkidar” or “Modi Forever”- painted on them.

Many supporters, both young and old, men and women, sported Gandhi caps in saffron colour with “BJP” or “Main Bhi Chowkidar” written on them. The Modi masks, white lotus (party symbols) batches, placards with slogans, saffron scarfs, party flags and even Modi wraps were also used by the crowd.

Varanasi is known for its narrow by-lanes and groups of people walking on the streets at a leisurely pace at any time of the year. None complained about the traffic diversions on Thursday evening though locals said there were less vehicles on the road as many locals preferred to walk or use public transport to avoid getting stuck during the roadshow.

BJP had also put up stalls and stages at road crossings where some local party leaders made speeches to keep the crowd engaged before Modi arrived. At Godhauliya crossing, some local actors acted out “the scene after Modi arrived”.

The roadshow that began at BHU, went through Lanka, Assi, Sonarpura, Madanpura and Godhauliya before reaching Dhasasvamedh Ghat. Several Muslims also thronged the streets in the Madanpura area which has a sizable minority population.

Union minister Piyush Goyal, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, BJP General Secretaries Bhupendra Yadav and Anil Jain, party secretary and media convenor Anil Baluni and UP BJP unit Chief Mahendra Pandey were among those present.

There was heavy security deployment for the roadshow with the Special Protection Group (SPG), central police force, Rapid Action Force and local police pressed into service. It was a nightmare for the security personnel as several people were perched on rooftops and balconies.

The only debate among locals is the margin of victory for Modi in Varanasi. “Even if you put a BJP scarf on the neck of a nobody and field him from here, he will win. Such is the frenzy here after Modi contested from here in 2014,” a local cloth shopkeeper told ET. However, some people maintained there was even more excitement in the air five years back when Modi contested from here.

The roadshow left little doubt that he is set to win by a more impressive margin this time.

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