The ‘world’s oldest living city’ on Thursday truly and overwhelmingly manifested the Modi wave.
It was a hero’s welcome that awaited Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi here. It also highlighted, largely in the saffron colour, the burden of expectations he has to carry as the BJP’s prime ministerial choice.
Kashiites went wild with enthusiasm the moment the BJP’s poster boy, wearing a full-sleeve white kurta, emerged in an open motorised NaMo chariot from Gate No 3 of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth (MGKV) grounds at 11.30am.
In the background, giant hoardings — with Modi pictures proclaiming “Achhe din aane wale hain (Good days are round the corner)” — seemed to lend the BJP leader a superman’s status as the huge gathering appeared more than willing to believe Modi was its best hope for a better life and future.
Modi, who arrived here after blogging that he wanted to clean the Ganga in Kashi much the same way as he had cleansed the Sabarmati in Gujarat, said: “I have not come on my own, nor have I been brought. I have been summoned here by Maa Ganga and feeling just as excited as a child feels in his mother’s lap.”
Modi’s chief strategist and UP in-charge Amit Shah promptly declared: “Agli sarkar, Modi sarkar (Next government will be Modi’s).”
“Modi is our nayak (hero),” claimed Zahir Sheikh, 70, of the Gujarat BJP unit. He came to Varanasi to remind the minorities that Modi would transform everyone’s lives, he said.
Amid the crescendo of ‘Modi, Modi’ chants, the BJP’s PM candidate arrived at Maldahiya crossing to garland the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel after having paid tributes at the statue of BHU founder Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya at Lanka Gate crossing.
The four roads converging at Lanka crossing were awash with saffron. Everywhere, there were party flags or caps as supporters raised slogans in favour of Modi. Justice (retd) Giridhar Malviya, Pt Malviya’s grandson and one of the proposers in Modi’s nomination form, was present at the statue while 51 batuks (students of the Vedas) recited shlokas from the scriptures.
A crowd of over 15,000 cheered lustily every time Modi waved and bowed to the people gathered on all sides of Malviya’s statue. As if to prove a point to his detractors who accuse him of being authoritarian and aggressive, Modi made several 90-degree bows towards his audience.
“I have never witnessed such adulation, such frenzy. It’s amazing how he has captured the imagination of the masses,” said Arvind Gupta, the national head of BJP’s IT cell.
Expressing gratitude for the rousing reception, Modi later tweeted: “Thank you Varanasi. No words will describe the affection you have showered today. Truly touched.”
“My special gratitude to all karyakartas and well wishers who have been tirelessly working on the ground and supporting me from all over India,” he posted.
After Modi and the BJP workers left Lanka crossing, the SP workers cleaned Pt Malviya’s statue. They had performed a similar “cleansing” act after Modi’s visit to the Vishwanath and Sankat Mochan temples in December last year.