Thousands mobbed prime minister-designate Narendra Modi as he made a triumphant entrance in Varanasi after a victory lap in New Delhi to celebrate his historic win in the Lok Sabha elections.
Modi offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath temple in the heart of Varanasi before proceeding for a ‘Ganga aarti’ at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. Vedic chants and flower-festooned podiums marked the prayer service on the banks of the River Ganga.
“I was stopped from talking to you during campaigning, but even then you made me victorious… There is a huge potential for development in Varanasi. I vow to make the city and Ganga clean,” Modi said after the ‘aarti’ concluded.
"I came here as a candidate and now I am returning as son of this holy land," he said.
Invoking Ganga, Modi said: "I did not come to Varanasi of my own volition, but Ma Ganga called me."
"Now, it is time to do my bit for Ma Ganga," Modi said acknowledging the big round of applause from the crowd. "Ma Ganga is waiting for her son to free her from pollution," Modi said.
Gesturing towards the crowd seated at the footsteps of the Dashashwamedh ghat, Modi said: "We all have to work for Kashi."
Sensing religious fervour at the Dashashwamedh ghat Modi said: "No medical science can explain my feeling of coming down to the land of Baba Vishwanath and Lord Buddha."
Modi also compared his coming to Varanasi to contest election to famous astronaut Neil Armstong's experience.
Coming back to politics and BJP's victory in the elections, Modi said: "It is for the first time after independence that a non-Congress government will form the government at the Centre with a full majority."
And it is also for the first time that a person born in free India (after independence) would lead the country, he said.
BJP chief Rajnath Singh, Modi's chief strategist Amit Shah, mayor Ram Gopla Mohle and local party leaders were present on the occasion.
The temple town wore a festive look ahead of Modi’s arrival. Thousands of supporters of the BJP waved party flags and shouted 'Modi, Modi' slogans to greet the PM-designate. They also followed Modi’s convoy through the city amid an upgraded security cover.
The PM-designate’s cavalcade stopped at Chatta Dwar, the main gate of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, where he later offered prayers. Srikant Mishra, the head priest of the temple, presided over the religious ceremony.
Modi had visited the temple to worship Lord Shiva before addressing a rally in Varanasi on December 20 last year. When Mishra had asked Modi what he prayed for, the BJP leader replied: 'Pradhan mantri pad kamna'. The head priest then demanded a pledge from Modi that he would visit the temple again if his wish was granted.
On Saturday, Modi was back at the temple to fulfill his promise. From the temple, Modi's cavalcade left for the Dashashwamedh Ghat for the Ganga aarti.
The 63-year-old earlier flew into Delhi on Saturday morning from Gujarat to bask in the glory of a landslide for the BJP and to begin organising his cabinet.
A crowd of party supporters, who had waited at the airport since early morning while being entertained by a marching band and thumping dance music, burst through police barricades at the sight of his cavalcade.
"Modi is our lion! He will work for the people of India, he will work for development, he will work for every Indian," shouted Om Dutt, a 39-year-old shop owner, reflecting heady expectations of what the new leader will deliver.
At party headquarters in the centre of Delhi, hundreds of ecstatic loyalists showered Modi with petals and chanted his name.
"I thank the BJP workers wholeheartedly," Modi said once inside, where he was flanked by senior party figures such as Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad, who are likely to take government roles.
The BJP won the first majority in parliament by a single party for 30 years on Friday after a massive campaign by Modi.
The sweep by the BJP claimed a fresh victim on Saturday when Nitish Kumar, who has served as chief minister of Bihar state since 2005, resigned after his Janata Dal (United) Party was almost wiped out in the polls.
(With inputs from AFP)