Varanasi all set for a grand finale for the Lok Sabha polls

Varanasi (UP), May 30 (IANS): The Ganga River is calm and the iconic Dasaswamedh Ghat is also quiet. However, street corners are still abuzz with activity as the campaign kicks off on Thursday in one of the most prestigious Lok Sabha seats in the province – Varanasi.

While dozens of ministers and supporters from other states prepare to leave Varanasi when the campaign ends on Thursday evening, the main participant, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be thousands of kilometers away in Kanyakumari, where he will undertake a three-day meditation.

Street corners and small kiosks bustle with activity as tourists gather to discuss the prime minister’s victory margin – the outcome of the election is not even debated – and locals indulge in small talk.

The poll poll in UP will reach a grand finale on June 1 when Varanasi votes along with 13 other constituencies.

Even after midnight there is no shortage of hikers. Many from places like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka queue up here for the Mangla Aarti, the first aarti of Lord Shiva that starts around 2:30 am.

The BJP, meanwhile, has shifted its focus to improving the counting of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In 2019, the Prime Minister secured a comfortable victory by a margin of around 4.79 lakh votes. He polled 6.74 lakh votes, which is about 63 percent of the total votes polled.

Congress’s Ajay Rai had polled 1.52 lakh votes.

This time, Ajay Rai of Congress is the candidate for INDIA block while Athar Jamal Lari is contesting on BSP ticket.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a major roadshow here on May 13 – a day before he filed his nomination papers. He was cheered enthusiastically by the crowds that thronged the route.

To promote a sense of belonging, the party then focused on personalizing the election campaign.

As part of the strategy, BJP officials visited a total of around two thousand intellectuals, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan awardees and celebrities from Varanasi and presented them with a personal letter from the Prime Minister urging them to vote and encouraging others to to do.

The BJP is also handing over personalized letters to new voters in Varanasi. Of the total 1.26 lakh voters identified, around 90,000 have been opted for personalized letters.

“The idea behind this exercise is to ensure at least 60 per cent votes this time so that the Prime Minister’s victory margin crosses at least the Rs 5 lakh mark,” a BJP functionary said.

The increased participation of women voters in the BJP campaign is a sign of the Prime Minister’s rising popularity.

Women volunteer to make ‘rangoli’ at polling stations and decorate the polling stations with balloons and buntings.

“This Kashi is completely ‘modified’ – both literally and otherwise. The transformation of the heritage city over the past ten years has been remarkable. Modi doesn’t even have to come here to campaign. It is the people who will achieve a historic victory,” said Pandit Sandip Acharya, a local priest.

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