Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy emerged from Singh Dwar of Kashi Hindu amid chants of ‘Namah Parvathi Pathayey Hara Hara Mahadev’. Dressed in a saffron kurta with white jacket, the PM stepped on to a temporary structure to garland the statue of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, founder of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU). Then he waved and soon boarded the open Jeep to start his six km road show.

The crowds chanted and clicked pictures on their mobile phones. Straining to capture the moment, three young girls — Priya, Shawasti, and Kiran — adjusted their phones. “Who knows, it could be his last election. I did not want to miss the opportunity to get one look,” said Priya. All three are first-time voters and are very excited about polling. “But I won’t tell you who I will vote for. It’s secret ballot, you see,” said Shawasti, an economics student.

Modi’s convoy passed through the famous ‘Pappu ki Tapri’ at Assi Ghat. Although the shop had to be shut down when the road show started, it did brisk business through the afternoon with the buzz of political gossip over cups of tea. Pappu ki Tapri is an iconic spot where local writers, intellectuals, and journalists gather to discuss politics, culture, and local gossip. They remember famous writers like Kashi Nath Singh, the famous author of the popular satire ‘Kashi Ka Assi’, who was a regular here.

The roadshow in Varanasi draws crowds, sparking excitement and political discussions among locals and voters.

The roadshow in Varanasi draws crowds, sparking excitement and political discussions among locals and voters. | Photo Credit: ANI

The discussion just before Modi’s road show was, naturally, about his election and the margin of his victory this time.

“There is no doubt about Modiji’s victory,” said Rajesh, a software engineer, a born Banarasi who now lives in Delhi. His college friend Niranjan is not very optimistic about the BJP’s overall prospects in Uttar Pradesh but concurs that Modi will win, albeit with a reduced margin.

Modi’s convoy passed through Sonarpura, a Muslim-dominated area where a number of Banarasi sari weavers live. A few kilometres away from this locality, Dr. Atri Bhardwaj, President of Kashi Patrakar Sangh, predicted the result: “The margin of his victory could go down.” Modi won from Varanasi in 2014 by 3.37 lakh votes and nearly 4.80 lakh votes in 2019.

Some distance away, at BHU, the same discussion centred around why the young people continue to support Modi.

“If Modiji had not been here, Kashi would not have transformed like this. He may have more plans for his home constituency. People, especially the youth, have high hopes,” said Anup Mishra, who teaches at DAV PG College. Adding to this, Mritunjay Mishra, Head of Economics Department at BHU, listed massive infrastructural development and an improved law and order situation as reasons for people to vote for the BJP.

In the town, Modi’s roadshow reached its culmination, and he performed a special puja at Kashi Vishwanath temple. The temple was fully decorated on account of Ganga Saptami falling on Tuesday, when Modi will perform a puja at Assi Ghat and then go to seek blessings from Kashi Ke Kotwal, ‘Kaal Bhairav’ before filing his nomination.