Prime Minister Narendra Modi will begin a two-day trip to his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi today, which will culminate with the PM filing his election papers from the seat this Friday.
But an equally big story in Varanasi seems to be the speculation on whether Priyanka Gandhi Vadra could make her electoral debut as the Congress candidate in the city, among the world’s holiest places. If it happens, it promises to be a blockbuster contest in the national election.
PM Modi will reach Varanasi this afternoon and lead a roadshow starting from the gates of the famous Banaras Hindu University, passing through ancient temples and ghats before finally ending in the holiest ghats of them all – Dashashwamedh. The prime minister will also attend the evening aarti at this ghat. He will end the day with an address to eminent people of the city.
On Friday, the prime minister will address a gathering of BJP workers before visiting the famous Kal Bhairav temple in the city. He will then visit the city’s collectorate to file his nomination papers. On both days, PM Modi will be accompanied by top NDA leaders and also BJP president Amit Shah.
PM Modi remains an immensely popular figure in Varanasi, despite some resentment of late over a UP government funded project to widen roads that lead to the landmark Kashi Vishwanath temple – a process that has led to the demolition of many homes and temples in the area, some of them centuries old.
But of equal interest this election in the city, is whether PM Modi’s opponent will be Priyanka Gandhi. “The chances are 50-50,” Congress sources have told NDTV, revealing that discussions are on between its top leaders.
Sources say Priyanka Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi, former Congress president, is among those who have reservations about sending her to battle in the very first election after she joined politics. But the sources add that Priyanka Gandhi has conveyed strongly that she is not worried about winning or losing.
It is not clear if the opposition gathbandhan of Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s BSP will back Priyanka Gandhi and withdraw their own candidate. On Monday, the Samajwadi Party named Shalini Yadav, the daughter-in-law of a former Congress lawmaker, as the opposition candidate from Varanasi.
Priyanka Gandhi and her brother Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president, have dropped hints about a gigantic Varanasi clash. Since Sunday, Priyanka Gandhi has said at least twice that she would contest from Varanasi “if the party asks me”.
In 2014, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal was Mr Modi’s main opponent in Varanasi. He managed to gather an impressive number of votes here despite ending up as the loser.
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