Banarasis brave heat for PM roadshow

The heat and humidity were no deterrents for the massive crowd of ‘Banarasis’ who accompanied PM Modi on his 7 km grand roadshow, chanting ‘Modi-Modi’, from Banaras Hindu University gate to Dasashwamedh Ghat.. The roadshow, held a day before he files his nomination from the temple city, received a rapturous welcome.

People had gathered outside BHU by the afternoon. Their numbers swelled as senior BJP leaders such as Manoj Tiwari made appearances amid election songs and slogans on loudspeakers.

As news of the Prime Minister’s arrival spread, BJP supporters broke into an impromptu gig near the statue of Madan Mohan Malviya outside the Lanka Gate. Folk artists including Dhabiyao dancers and Birha singers became crowd pullers, making it a carnival-like atmosphere.

According to BJP’s itinerary, Modi had to land at the BHU helipad at 3 pm. From there, he was to reach the university gate to garland the Malviya’s statue to mark the beginning of his road show—a ritual he had followed in 2014 too.

Though Modi was delayed by about two hours, when he finally arrived wearing a saffron kurta and an ‘angavastram’, loud cheers and showers of rose petals greeted him.

After garlanding the BHU founder’s statue, Modi greeted the crowds by bowing down with folded hands. He began his road show in his official vehicle a little before 5.30 pm. On a decorated mini truck, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, state BJP chief Mahendranath Pandey and other senior leaders followed. Behind them were another dozen cars with party flags.

Modi constantly kept waving as the road show continued towards Ravidas Gate and into narrow lanes with crowds cheering on. Several selfie sticks were propped up by supporters, and children sat on parents’ shoulders to catch a glimpse of the PM.

In the Muslim-dominated Madanpura locality, large crowds welcomed Modi.

Iqbal Ahmed, a resident, said people were happy to welcome the PM as chants of ‘Modi-Modi’ reverberated.

Shamim Akhtar Ansari said it was due to the personal relations of BJP MLC and silk trader Ashok Dhawan with Muslims that they had come in large numbers.

When the destination, Dashashwamedha Ghat, was metres away, the loud noises gave way to the sound of mantras— the aarti by priests had begun.

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