Security arrangements have been beefed up in Varanasi in view of a possible face-off between Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) prime minister nominee, Narendra Modi, and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal.
The Election Commission has also sounded an alert in Azamgarh, which will see Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav fighting the Lok Sabha polls.
Intelligence Bureau officials are on their toes in Varanasi, especially against the backdrop of serial blasts rocking Patna and killing six people before Modi addressed a rally there last October.
Varanasi is no stranger to terror attacks. It saw three such attacks between 2006 and 2010 killing 40 people.
Besides, Varanasi has 300,000-odd Muslim voters. The police have issued an alert against circulating video clippings of the 2002 Gujarat riots that took place during Modi's rule in the state.
Moreover, with the AAP, known for its politics of activism, getting ready to field Kejriwal against Modi, tension in the holy city has escalated. BJP and AAP workers had recently exchanged blows in Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow.
Narrow lanes and ghats are under the police watch in Varanasi. About 25 locations at public places have been identified where CCTVs are likely to be installed. Surprise checks at hotels and guesthouses are being conducted.
Devotees and foreign tourists watch evening prayers on the banks of the River Ganges in Varanasi. AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana
Chief election commissioner VS Sampath has said that alongside Varanasi, the Azamgarh constituency has also been kept under vigil.
According to Sampath, officials of Varanasi and Azamgarh districts have been asked to take strict action against anti-social elements trying to cause tension during campaigning.
The Election Commission has sent a letter to Varanasi district magistrate Pranjal Yadav, instructing him to check a repeat of the Lucknow clash.
Police officials of the Varanasi zone have been asked to prepare a special plan to maintain law and order during the polls, additional director general of police (law and order) Mukul Goel told HT.
Prakash D, inspector general of police (Varanasi zone), said a demand for additional forces would be forwarded to the state government. "Varanasi is now a VIP constituency."
A joint team of the district police, airport officials and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) would review the security of the Lal Bahadur Shastri airport in Varanasi. The CISF is in charge of the airport's security.
Terror attacks on Varanasi
March 7, 2006: Blasts at Sankat Mochan temple and Cantonment railway station. Twenty-eight killed
November 24, 2007: Series of blasts at court campuses across Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi, Lucknow and Faizabad hit. Eleven killed in Varanasi and four in Faizabad
December 7, 2010: Blast at Sheetla Ghat adjoining the Dashashwamedh Ghat. One killed