It is an overdose of road shows for Varanasi on Saturday with both the BJP, lead by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the SP-Congress alliance led by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi took to roadshows. While Varanasi was all saffron in the morning as Modi took to the road show, in another part of the city, supporters of the Samajwadi Party and the Congress gathered ahead of another one by Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi.
For Modi, it was back to square one, starting off the road show from exactly where he was in 2014 Parliamentary polls. Massive crowds gathered at Modi's constituency in a solid show of strength. While the BJP called it a show of confidence, supporters of the SP deemed it a sign of nervousness. Even as neighbouring districts went to polls in the penultimate phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, roadshows took over the day in Varanasi.
The 40 seats of Varanasi region are crucial for BJP. To start off with, it is the prime minister's Parliamentary constituency and the BJP's performance in the poll will reflect directly on Modi's image, the very reason why even the SP and Congress alliance wants to leave its mark in the constituency. Supporters of the SP are viewing the prime minister's roadshow as a last ditch effort by the BJP to 'save its face' in the region since SP-Congress alliance has managed to break into its vote banks and eat into its vote shares.
The massive rally, SP supporters allege, is an attempt by the BJP to gather as much support as it can before the final phase of polls on March 8. The joint road show by Akhilesh and Rahul is also aimed at countering Modi's roadshow in the same region on the same day. Both the 'UP ke ladke' are setting foot on Modi's turf to throw open the challenge.
The BJP, however, views the rally as a display of support it enjoys in the region. Thousands of supporters broke into chants of 'Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi', even as the prime minister's road show proceeded. The sheer numbers, the BJP claims, speaks for the support that it enjoys in the region. "It is a show of confidence," said BJP leaders gathered at Varanasi thrashing the SP's claim of it being last minute nervousness. While the numbers are as massive as they are, whether they will translate into votes remains to be seen. Confidence or nervousness, a clear lead in the 40 seats of Varanasi is of great importance to the BJP in general and Modi and BJP president Amit Shah in particular, to counter the SP-Congress alliance.