- PM attended an aarti at Dashashwamedh ghat after the roadshow
- Top BJP leaders accompanied PM Modi
- The visit will culminate with the PM filing his election papers tomorrow
Cheered by a massive crowd, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a mega roadshow on Thursday in Varanasi, the Uttar Pradesh temple town from where he will contest for the second time. In a saffron kurta and scarf, the Prime Minister waved at thousands of people on the roads from the sunroof of his SUV. He began his journey from the iconic Banaras Hindu University, where he paid tribute at a statue of Madan Mohan Malviya a leader of the independence movement and a renowned educationist.
The PM took his roadshow by ancient temples and ghats - the seven-kilometre-long roadshow that took two-and-a-half hours finally ended in the holiest ghat of them all, the Dashashwamedh. The prime minister also attended the evening aarti at this ghat on the banks of the river Ganga. Today, he will file his nomination papers.
Addressing a meeting after the roadshow, the PM stressed on national security, saying the government had dealt effectively against terrorism. In an apparent reference to the Balakot air strike after Pakistan-based terrorists killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama in February, PM Modi said the world now backed India in its fight against terror.
PM Modi said while the last five years of his government were about sincere effort, the next five years will be about results.
Top BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah, top Union Ministers and Chief Ministers, including Yogi Adityanath, accompanied PM Modi as the convoy snaked through the holy town.
The show of strength took place on a day the Congress ended all speculation about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra taking on PM Modi in the city, which would have set up the biggest contest of the 2019 election. The Congress has again fielded Ajay Rai, who finished third in 2014.
On Friday, the prime minister will address a gathering of BJP workers before visiting the famous Kal Bhairav temple in the city. He will then visit the city's collectorate to file his nomination papers.
PM Modi remains an immensely popular figure in Varanasi, despite some resentment over a UP government-funded project to widen roads that lead to the landmark Kashi Vishwanath temple - a process that has led to the demolition of many homes and temples in the area, some of them centuries old.
Among those who accompanied PM Modi's roadshow are Ramlila artistes from one of the city's oldest troupes.
"This is the Mauni Baba Ram Lila Committee that is 522 years old," said its manager Vikram Bhardwaj. "Lord Ram's Sena is with PM Modi," he added, gesturing towards actors dressed as Hanuman, Angad, Nal and Neel - the monkey army from the epic Ramayana.
The actor who plays Hanuman, Rahul Sharma, said from behind his mask: "There have been many positive changes after PM Modi became our MP."