Campaigning reaches fever pitch in Varanasi

Campaigning reaches fever pitch in Varanasi

Campaigning in this prestigious constituency reached its zenith on Saturday, the last day for electioneering, with the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) taking out massive roadshows in support of their candidates Ajay Rai and Kailash Chourasiya, respectively.

Interestingly, “outsiders” Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi dominated the campaign space in this spiritual city situated on the banks of the Ganga river.

While the BJP has flooded Varanasi with saffron flags, Modi masks and banners, and is distributing umbrellas to vendors who dot the city's streets, AAP volunteers are seen at squares waving brooms, the party's election symbol, and distributing copies of “AAP ki Kranti”, the party mouthpiece published as a weekly tabloid.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav led an impressive roadshow soon after Congress workers cleared the streets. Red flags with the SP's bicycle symbol dominated the streets, as a huge crowd gathered on the roads to greet Akhilesh and Chourasiya.

Senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah have been camping in the capital, engaging different sections of voters. Party workers who have descended here from various parts of the country, such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and neighbouring Chhattisgarh, have been going door to door distributing pamphlets listing Modi's promises for betterment of the city.

As Kejriwal's roadshow crawled through the city lanes on Friday, BJP supporters raised pro-Modi slogans, which triggered verbal duels between activists of the two parties.

The manner in which the activists have been engaging in verbal duels gives an impression that the real contest here is between Modi and Kejriwal. The others—the Congress' Rai, the SP's Chourasiya and BSP's Vijay Prakash Jaiswal—already appear to be also-rans.

“The real contest here is between Modi and Kejriwal; the rest are nowhere to be seen,” said Ramprakash Jha, who runs a juice centre near Dashashwamedh Ghat here.

Though senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mukul Wasnik have been camping in the city for a few days, Congress workers were seen on the streets of Varanasi in huge numbers perhaps for the first time on Saturday.

“We are fighting this election to win. We are not bothered about competitors, and are just here to campaign and achieve success,” Azad told reporters here.

The Congress is banking on the sizeable Muslim population and the Bhumihar community, to which its candidate Rai belongs, to see it through. Perhaps this is why Rahul Gandhi chose to start his roadshow from Gol Gadda, a Muslim-dominated area of the city, and made its way to the Banaras Hindu University.

Besides Azad and Wasnik, AICC general secretaries Madhusudan Mistry and C P Joshi, actors-turned-politicians Raj Babbar and Nagma and senior leader Pramod Tiwari were with Gandhi during the roadshow, which began at 8:30 am and concluded at the BHU much after noon.

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