Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s back-to-back road shows on Saturday and Sunday have lifted the spirits of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and may help the party overcome resentment among supporters of those denied tickets, party insiders said.
A BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, told HT that the party planned the road shows after sensing trouble.
Another local BJP leader, Ashok Yadav said, “Modi’s road shows have managed to placate the anger of the supporters of those who have been denied tickets. But it cannot be denied that there still is a lot of resentment among them. This will not be a cakewalk for the BJP, but we are winning.”
Modi, who spent the night in Varanasi on Sunday, will visit Garhwa Ashram and Ramnagar where he will pay tribute to former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on Monday. He will then address a rally in Rohania on the outskirts of the city before returning to Delhi.
Varanasi goes to polls in the seventh and last phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly election on March 8 when voting will take place in 40 seats of the region.
Both the road shows drew huge crowds at a time when party candidates are facing a tough challenge in the assembly constituencies of the PM’s Lok Sabha seat.
The road show on Sunday, second in two days, covered a five-kilometre stretch, including Pandeypur, Hukulganj, Teliabagh, Maldahiya and concluded at Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth where Modi addressed a rally. The road show touched the Cantonment and Varanasi North constituencies.
Muslim women offered him a shawl in Hukulganj area on Sunday. Thousands of supporters
thronged the route along which Modi went. Carrying BJP flags and shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi’, they waved at Modi, who acknowledged their greetings and waved back at them.
Saturday’s road show began from the Benares Hindu University gate and passed through Assi, Shivala, Bhadaini, Sonarpura, Madanpura, Godaulia, Bansphatak, Bulanala, and concluded at Maidagin, covering over seven kilometres and touching Varanasi South and Cantonment assembly constituencies.
Though these two constituencies are considered BJP bastions, the party is taking no chances this time due to anger among supporters over denial the ticket to its seven-time MLA Shyamdeo Roy Chaudhary in Varanasi South and fielding Saurabh Srivastava, the son of three-time sitting MLA Jyotsana Srivastava, for the Cantonment seat.
Many ticket seekers in the Cantonment opposed the decision to field Saurabh. Jyotsna Srivastava’s husband Harish Chandra Srivastava won the seat twice before.
There were protests when Roy Chaudhary, popular for his accessibility, was denied the ticket by the party which gave no reason for the move.
The anger among supporters compelled state BJP president Keshav Prasad Maurya and senior leaders to try and placate them. Later, BJP president Amit Shah met Roy Chaudhary who then agreed to campaign for BJP candidate Neelkanth Tiwari in Varanasi South.
Insiders say that after Modi’s road show, the situation has improved for the party though there is still some unhappiness among the supporters of Chaudhary. “The two road shows have helped in creating a wave in favour of the BJP candidates in all assembly seats of the city in particular. The road shows have changed the mood here,” political analyst Kaushal Kishore Mishra, professor at the political science department of BHU, said.
The BJP hopes the road shows and three rallies together will help it win in Varanasi.