Even the most die hard of Modi supporters wouldn’t have anticipated the kind of response Modi received from Varanasi on his nomination day today. it was a stunning and awe inspiring show of support from the city for BJP’s PM nominee Narendra Modi.
Just a day back, media’s blue eyed boy, Arvind Kejriwal filed his nomination from this seat. In a show of strength, his party AAP, managed to converge a lot of its volunteers from different parts of country, mostly Delhi NCR and U.P for the road show that preceded his nomination. Around 5-10 thousand people, mostly AAP volunteers from outside, local Muslims and curious onlookers made up the crowd that accompanied Mr. Kejriwal. In an address to the crowd, he focused more on attacking Narendra Modi than anything else. Despite his claims of never taking security and much to the respite of rest of India, he was surrounded by multi level security with inner core manned by commandos. This however did not stop the violence his partymen regularly find themselves provoking or indulging in, as Somnath Bharti, the controversial leader accused of racial bias got manhandled during a talk show the same evening. Buoyed by the crowd, Mr. Kejriwal claimed Mr. Modi is losing in Varanasi.
Sitting at Assi ghat today, Whatever hopes Mr. Kejriwal had raised from yesterday’s roadshow were surely dashed and drowned in depth of the Ganges. That Modi’s nomination was going to be special event was given. City was buzzing about Modi’s visit since yesterday. Most of the people could be heard planning their day anticipating massive crowds. Schools and colleges were closed and most shopkeepers in the main city planned to keep their shops closed. There was an air of excitement as preparations were underway to receive Modi. The city was taking on a saffron tinge. At the Cantt. station and bus stand nearby, one could see Modi supporters from nearby districts flowing into the city. The crowd was boisterous and exuberant, chanting,Har Har Modi. Priyesh Ranjan, a 26 year unemployed youth from Deoria was part of a crowd of about 50, who said, I want Modi to be the PM so that youth can get jobs. Local support for Modi is at unprecedented level. Almost every 6 out 10 people that I talked to were supporting Modi. Most of the hotels in Varanasi were crammed to capacity with national and international media descending in Varanasi to cover Modi’s nomination.
Mr. Modi was expected to arrive at Babatpur airport by 8 AM however he got delayed by about 2 hours. His first stop was Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya’s statue at Singh Dwar (Lion’s Gate) of Banaras Hindu University. This whole area is called Lanka and it was brimming with tens of thousands of his supporters. You could see saffron caps everywhere. On road, in balconies, on rooftops and even lamp posts. Modi’s appearance sent the crowd into a frenzy as non stop slogans of Narendra Modi zindabad resonated in the entire area. Few Professors, students of BHU and shopkeepers of the area that I talked to were unanimous in their support for Modi. One could also see Muslim presence in the crowd cheering Modi. Rizwan Khan, a man over 60 years old was emphatic in his support of Modi. He said in SP govt. rule Muslims are dying of hunger and he hoped Modi will bring prosperity to the city.
Mr Modi’s road show covered areas of nadesar, anhera pul, cantt. area to reach collectorate office to file his nomination. An approximate crowd of 200000 people were on the roads to be part of his road show. An equal number or a little less were on balconies, rooftops, bridges, trees hoping to get a glimpse of the leader. Several local reporters said they’ve never seen such a response to any leader during nomination anywhere. Prahlad Rai, an onlooker said it was wise decision to close school colleges else kids would have suffered due to crowds but he was quick to point out that Modi was popular here but no one expected such a crowd.
Mr Modi was accompanied by Amit Shah, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Ravi Shankar Prasad and his four proposers. He had to wait for over 30 minutes before he got his chance to file his nomination. However, the response from roadshow certainly kept him in good humor. Mr. Modi hurried to attend to his rallies in Bihar but he did stop to talk to media. He said, It was mother Ganga’s wish which brought him here. He also talked about weavers which was signal to dominant Muslim community. It remains to be seen how they respond, but ground reports indicated division of Muslim votes mostly between AAP and congress.
The massive crowd remained talk of the town today with everyone saying they’ve never seen anything like this in Varanasi ever. A tea stall owner said, it wasn’t as if only main roads were clogged, almost any street you go into, you’d have found the same situation, clogged with Modi supporters. En route to Modi road show I saw a lady with a 4 year old kid in her lap who, looking at the festivities in the crowd, was shouting Holi hai, Holi hai. Of all the people i guess that child suitably defined the Modi wave. Like Holi, vibrant, colorful, overwhelming and you cannot escape the colors.