Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to address four poll rallies, including three at different locations in his parliamentary constituency, in the crucial Varanasi region between March 3 and 6 for the seventh and final phase of the Uttar Pradesh election on March 8.
The Varanasi region has 40 seats spread across seven districts.
The PM will address a rally in Mirzapur on March 3 followed by election meetings at Jaunpur and Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth ground, Varanasi, on March 4. He is also scheduled to offer prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Kaal Bhairav temple in Varanas before leaving for Delhi around 8.30pm.
On March 5, he will address a rally at Townhall ground, Varanasi, and is scheduled to interact with 2,000 prominent people of Varanasi.After an overnight stay at the Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) guest house he will visit Garhwa Ashram on March 6, pay tributes to former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and address a rally at Rohania.
The BJP is facing a tough electoral battle in the Varanasi North and Varanasi South assembly constituencies. In Varanasi North, the party’s sitting MLA Ravindra Jaiswal is up against the SP-Congress alliance. Similarly, Varanasi South poses a challenge to the BJP which denied the ticket to seven-time legislator Shyamdev Roy Chaudhary and gave it to Neelkanth Tiwari instead.
Though the seat is a BJP bastion, winning it may not be a cakewalk for the party this time. The BJP leaders are banking on Modi’s charisma to win over those unhappy with the party’s decision to deny a ticket to Chaudhary.
Rohania is equally important for the BJP because its alliance partner Apna Dal (S) patron Anupriya Patel won the seat in the 2012 assembly polls. She vacated the seat after she won the Mirzapur Lok Sabha seat in 2014. The SP won the seat in the bypoll.
Patel fielded an Apna Dal (S) candidate for the seat initially but withdrew the nominee when the BJP put up Surendra Narayan Singh Aundhe. The BJP faces tough battle from SP and Apna Dal president Krishna Patel who is contesting the seat. All three are among the five assembly segments of Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi.
Mirzapur and Jaunpur are equally crucial for the BJP. The party drew a blank in Mirzapur in 2012. The SP won three seats, the BSP and the Congress one each.
The SP won seven out of the nine seats in Jaunpur in 2012. The Congress and the BJP bagged one seat each.
Campaigning is at its peak in Uttar Pradesh but Samajwadu Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has stepped out only for two public rallies this elections, a stark contrast to the over 300 rallies he addressed in the 2012 assembly polls.
Leaders from across the political spectrum criss-crossed the entire state to woo the voters but Mulayam mostly kept indoors. The 77-year-old SP patron campaigned just for his younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav, who is contesting on a SP ticket from Lucknow Cantonment, and also for his brother Shivpal Singh Yadav, who is contesting from the party’s bastion of Jaswantnagar in Etawah.
Voting for five out the seven phases of Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls is already over. His political rivals said the SP patriarch’s clout has been “confined to just two” of the 403 Assembly seats in the state.
Keen on a richer haul in the region this time, the BJP has deployed many ministers to campaign here. Four ministers and several senior national leaders of the BJP are camping in Varanasi.
With the poll race nearing the finish line, the parties are getting their top guns to address rallies here. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will hold a rally at Pindra in Varanasi on Thursday. He will take out a roadshow with Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Akhilesh Yadav in the temple town on March 4.
The Congress today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “misleading” the country with his “blatant lies” on various issues including the “coconut juice” jibe on Rahul Gandhi, for which it demanded his apology.
The Opposition party hit out at Modi for not fulfilling any of the promises made to farmers, exservicemen and the poor and accused him of doing “treachery” with farmers. “Blatant lies, jumlas and disinformation have become the hallmark of India’s Prime Minister. The truth is that Modi ji does not speak the truth,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
Showing a video of Rahul’s speech in Manipur and that of the Prime Minister at a rally in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress leader said it is more than apparent in the video that Modi is trying to mislead the nation and people of Uttar Pradesh.
Surjewala was referring to a remark made by the Congress vice president about progress made by a northeastern state which is essentially part of India’s growth story.
“Modiji does not want people of Manipur and northeastern states to progress and participate in India’s growth story. So Modiji must now apologise not only to the Congress party but to the entire nation. He should express regrets publicly for misleading people in UP as also the entire country by twisting and by falsifying the words of the leader of the principal Opposition party,” he said.
“It does not behove a Prime Minister. Modiji has lowered the dignity of the office of Prime Minister and he should be ashamed about it,” he added. “We are sorry and sad in saying these words about Prime Minister of India who has become a habitual offender in telling lies.”
Modi took a jibe at Rahul’s reported remark that he was waiting for the day when packaged “coconut juice” from Manipur would sell in London. During his poll campaign in Manipur, Rahul had talked about ‘Narangi’ juice, the Congress claimed.
Surjewala also attacked Modi accusing him of “lying” about and “fudging” the growth numbers and of talking about the welfare of poor but increasing LPG prices steeply and imposing transaction tax on ATM usage. He also charged him with “treachery” with farmers.
“By giving fudged figures, you are attacking the economists who have shown you the mirror of truth on account of demon of demonetisation. Does Modi ji forget that from fake encounters to fake figures, can never cover the real truth.
And the real truth is this,” he said.
Surjewala also said Modi promised farming communities in UP, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, to include certain communities in OBC list, besides paying farmers 50 per cent more than their cost as MSP.
“Now for 2.5 years, Modiji has not fulfilled the promises made. That shows absolute treachery an falsification of promises by Narendra Modi. India’s farmers are large-hearted and even if you do treachery with them they will pardon you if you do course correction on important issue. The ball now lies in Modi ji’s court.”
He also said that by “abusing known economists, Modiji cannot hide the truth and the truth is that incompetence and malgovernance have become the hallmark of of Modiji’s type of functioning”.