Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday filed his nomination papers from the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat, accompanied by a galaxy of top BJP and NDA leaders.
Besides BJP chief Amit Shah, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, top NDA leaders such as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, SAD leader Prakash Singh Badal and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray were with Modi at the Collectorate as he filed his papers.
Modi offered prayers at a temple before he went to the Collectorate.ALSO READ: Lok Sabha elections LIVE updates
He won the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat in 2014 by defeating his nearest rival, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, by a massive margin of over three lakh votes.Modi staged a show of strength on Thursday in Varanasi Dotted with ancient temples and sitting on the banks of the Ganges river, Varanasi was one of two seats that Modi fought and won at the last election in 2014. He has so far chosen to represent Varanasi in parliament and is not likely to pursue any other seat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Varanasi, during a roadshow in the city on Thursday. The constituency goes to the polls on May 19 Photo: Reuters Surrounded by tens of thousands of supporters, Modi, who is seeking a second term as premier, bowed to the crowd with folded hands from an elevated podium. He then toured the city in an SUV, standing to greet supporters through the sunroof. His security forces prevented the crowd from getting too close even as the vehicle moved slowly through the narrow alleys. Modi was accompanied by senior BJP leaders, including the party President Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, where Varanasi is located. The northern state is India’s most populous and has the largest number of MPs.
In 2014, the BJP won 71 seats there out of 80.“NAMO AGAIN” The city was decorated with BJP flags and saffron-coloured balloons. Sounds of drums and songs praising Modi grew louder as the prime minister arrived. Supporters wore “Namo Again” t-shirts or masks with Modi’s photograph, while others dressed as Hindu gods and goddesses. “I think this time he’s trying to send the signal that he’s now far more confident, he doesn’t need the Gujarat seat and therefore he’s standing only from UP,” said Sudha Pai, referring to the other seat Modi won and gave up in 2014. Pai, a former political science professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, closely tracks politics in Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses an election rally | Photo: PTI But weak jobs growth, distressed farm incomes because of low crop prices, and charges of economic mismanagement have boosted the opposition. And in Uttar Pradesh, two formidable regional parties have allied to take on the BJP. Modi often refers to “Mother Ganga” in his speeches, and his government has committed nearly $3 billion of funds to a five-year clean-up of the heavily polluted sacred river. That programme is due to be completed in 2020. But last year, Reuters found that only a tenth of the funds had been used in the first two years of the project. “It is what it was before. Nothing has changed. People are just using Modi to make money themselves,” said 70-year old Ramji, referring to the money spent on cleaning the Ganges. At the end of his roadshow, Modi went to an ornately decorated riverside, where many priests prayed, burned incense, chanted, and tolled bells. He stood inches away from the water, made offerings including flowers, and prayed before leaving amid loud chants.