Varanasi: For three hours, Varanasi danced, cheered, and showered rose petals as Narendra Modi rode an open truck in the biggest road-show in the world’s largest election. Conch shells rang through the air, mixed with slogans shouting support for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
This is the first parliamentary election for Mr Modi. For his opponents, who have denounced talk of “a Modi wave” as BJP propaganda, today could offer room for re-consideration. Today’s parade had all the colour and celebration of a victory procession.
In sweltering heat, people lined the two-km journey. Before he filed his nomination papers, he said, “I feel as if the BJP has not sent me here…but Ma Ganga has summoned me. I pray for strength so that I can serve this city.”
En route, Mr Modi made multiple stops, one of them at a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a freedom fighter from Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat and India’s first Home Minister.
Mr Modi’s spectacular show of strength was delivered on the sixth of nine days of voting in India’s mammoth general elections. Under Mr Modi, the BJP is expected to win the maximum seats, but opinion polls differ on whether the party will land a majority, which will decide whether it needs to win over more allies than the 25 it has paired with already for the election.
The crowds today in Varanasi consisted not just of BJP workers, but residents of the city, many of whom attended prayer ceremonies held to bring luck to Mr Modi.
His chief opponent in Varanasi is Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, who filed his nomination yesterday. (I have Rs. 500 in my pocket and an old jeep: Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi)
In a blog post this morning, Mr Modi sought the blessing and support of the city and has promised “a magnificent future for Varanasi” and an end to “a larger decay across UP.”