BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Thursday filed his nomination from Varanasi and said the city should become spiritual capital of world.
Hours before filing his nomination papers from Varanasi in one of the most keenly watched contests in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi praised the "glorious past" and talked about the "glorious future" of the holy city in a blog.
Modi talked about creating state-of-the-art tourist and infrastructure facilities for Varanasi, commitment to clean the Ganga, address the issues of cleanliness in the temple town and to make the weavers of Varanasi become "our pride at the world level".
"With the blessings of Lord Vishwanath and inspired by the legacy of a glorious past, we set out to create a magnificent future for Varanasi," he wrote.
He also sought the support and blessings of the people of Varanasi.
"Bless me so that I can restore this glorious city to its prime and so that I can bring a sea of change in the lives of people of Varanasi and Poorvanchal so that this region once again becomes the focal point of our nation’s development and our proud culture."
Read: Varanasi: A glorious past, an even glorious future for the ancient city that is India’s pride
Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday filed nomination papers had attacked Modi and Rahul Gandhi for "helicopter democracy".
He also mentioned that Modi would be arriving on a helicopter to Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and after garlanding university founder's statue would again hop on the chopper for his next destination before starting his road show.
"People of Amethi are now fed up of Rahul Gandhi whom they see arrive and leave in a chopper. I hope Varanasi doesn't make the same mistake else they too would see Modiji mostly on a helicopter but never among them," he said.
The Gujarat chief minister will fly in to the temple town and attended a string of events, including paying tributes to the BHU founder Madan Mohan Malviya, BR Ambedkar, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Swami Vivekanand.
Before filing his papers, Modi, who is also contesting from Vadodara in his home state, will hold a 2.5-km long roadshow. He would move in an open rath, a Tata 407 vehicle likely, through congested lanes with local BJP leaders helping the police in regulating the crowd, security sources said.
BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi gestures to supporters during a rally in Varanasi. AFP photo
Modi's nomination for the seat was a tough challenge for the saffron party, which hopes to put up a spectacular show in Uttar Pradesh under his leadership.
The BJP had announced Modi would contest the Varanasi seat in UP after sitting parliamentarian Murli Manohar Joshi gave in to the pressure from top leadership. Joshi will fight from the Kanpur seat.
Modi's decision to enter the fray from the holy city, as demanded by BJP strategists, underscored anxiety on the part of the party brass to maximise the saffron party's tally from UP and Bihar — two key states accounting for 120 Lok Sabha seats that could help the BJP reach the magic figure of 272 in the House to form the next government.
Malviya's grandson Girdhar Malviya was one of the proposers to name the Gujarat chief minister.
"I accepted the offer to be Modi's proposer. Modi will take the nation forward with his principles, uniting everyone," said Girdhar Malviya, a former judge.
The BJP had tried to rope in the family of the late shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan but they politely declined, citing their tradition of staying away from politics.
In 2009 Lok Sabha election, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi had won the seat defeating gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari by a margin of 17,000 votes.
Quami Ekta Dal's Ansari, who is known to have a strong support base among Muslims, has decided not to contest against Modi from the seat "to avoid division of secular votes".
The Congress party has fielded Ajay Rai, a Varanasi local, who is an MLA from Pindra assembly constituency. Samajwadi Party candidate Kailash Chaurasiya is also a sitting MLA from nearby Mirzapur. Both Rai and Chaurasiya have already filed their nominations.
BSP's Vijay Prakash Jaisawal will contest the elections from Varanasi while CPI(M) has given ticket to veteran party worker Heera Lal Yadav. Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has given the ticket to Indira Tiwari.
Every party has been trying hard to woo the 1.5 lakh Muslim voters the constituency has.
Polling in Varanasi would be held in the last phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 12.
After filing his nomination papers from Varanasi, Modi will fly to his other constituency of Vadodara to address a public meeting at the Polo Ground, a party official said.
This will be Modi's first rally in Vadodara after he filed his nomination papers on 9 April.
(With IANS and PTI inputs)