Campaigning for the seventh and final phase of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections on March 8 reached fever pitch on Sunday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi remaining the focal point in the endgame.
Modi has been camping in the ancient city for three days — from morning till night — and will stay overnight in Varanasi. Originally, campaigning was to end on Monday, but in Alapur, where BJP president Amit Shah held a rally on Sunday, it will end on Tuesday.
Voting in Alapur constituency, which would have gone to polls in the fifth phase, was moved to March 9 following the death of a candidate.
Chief architects of the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, too have concentrated their campaign in Varanasi region.
Akhilesh targeted Modi’s road shows in the state at one of his rallies, saying, “Who takes a retest? One who fails the first time. Modi ji’s first road show failed, so he is taking out another road show. The second too will fail and then he will take out one more.”
Around the same time, Shah mocked Akhilesh at a rally in Alapur over the rape allegation against SP minister Gayatri Prajapati. “The chief minister says he has asked the rape accused Gayatri Prajapati to surrender. Come on, a chief minister is not supposed to ask someone to surrender, his job is to get him arrested. Never mind, when we make the government after March 11, we will drag Gayatri out even if he is hiding in the netherworld.”
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati dealt with the final phase of campaigning much the way she dealt with the preceding six — at her own pace. She ended the 2017 poll campaign with a Varanasi rally on Saturday and did not address any rallies Sunday and is not expected to do so on Monday either. In her parting shot in Varanasi, Mayawati said, “All the temple-going of Modi and Akhilesh won’t work.”
Modi had a road show and a rally each on Saturday and Sunday in Varanasi. He also had a rally in Jaunpur on Saturday and is scheduled to address one in Rohaniya on Monday.
Rahul and Akhilesh are slated to address a joint press conference in Varanasi on Monday. Both pursued a hectic rally schedule on Sunday. Akhilesh had seven rallies in Sonbhadra, Mirzapur, and Chandauli, while Rahul had three in Sonbhadra, Mirzapur, and Jaunpur.
The final phase of voting has the least number of constituencies among phases — 40 seats across seven districts.