Rahul Gandhi's Tit-For-Tat Roadshow in Varanasi

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi pays tribute to Madan Mohan Malviya

Varanasi: On the last day of campaigning in the world's largest election, Rahul Gandhi drove in an open-top car through Varanasi, from where Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, is running for Parliament.

Just days ago, Mr Modi, 63, held a massive rally in Mr Gandhi's constituency of Amethi, so the young Congress leader's visit to Varanasi is being seen as payback. (Narendra Modi Brings Battle to Gandhi Doorstep)

Congress supporters cheered Mr Gandhi's convoy, throwing rose petals at him.  Like Mr Modi had done weeks ago, the 43-year-old stopped to garland a statue of freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malviya who founded the Banaras Hindu University. (See Pics)

rahul-varanasi-INC-360x270.jpg
Mr Gandhi's star turn in Varanasi is intended to telegraph that the Congress is not an also-ran in a contest featuring two of India's most-talked-about politicians - up against Mr Modi is Arvind Kejriwal, the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party, whose strong performance in December kept the BJP from forming the Delhi state government. The Congress candidate is Ajay Rai.
(Fight between 'dhartiputra' and outsider, says Ajay Rai

Nearly 15% of Varanasi's population is Muslim.  The minority vote is expected to be split between the Congress and Mr Kejriwal.

The bar for road-shows in Varanasi has been set high by Mr Modi.  He drew massive audiences when he filed his nomination papers last month and drove through Varanasi again on Thursday after the Election Commission controversially disallowed his rally in the heart of the city. (Modi in Varanasi: 4 Kilometres in 3 Hours And a Show of Strength)

Mr Kejriwal is holding his own road-show today in Varanasi and later, Akhilesh Yadav, the young chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, will campaign here for his Samajwadi Party.

After 6 pm today, campaigning is banned for the final 41 seats that will vote on Monday, Varanasi among them. So today's programmes are assembled to appeal to an audience far beyond the borders of India's spiritual capital.

Opinion polls show the BJP will rout the Congress to get the maximum seats in the national election.
More News