A “pro-incumbency wave” is sweeping through India for the first time ever, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today, addressing thousands of workers of the ruling BJP in Varanasi before filing his election papers to contest again from the Uttar Pradesh temple town.
“The media knows that the Varanasi election is over. Now we just have to break all voting records,” PM Modi said in his pep-talk, a day after touring the city in a massive roadshow, waving at supporters through the sunroof of an SUV.
This morning, top allies of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance arrived for day two of the grand prelude to PM Modi signing up to contest the national election in which he is seeking another term in office.
Allies like Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Paneerselvam were seen at a breakfast with top BJP leaders.
“A pro-incumbency wave has been seen in country for the first time after independence. People across the nation are saying… Fir Ek Baar…?” PM Modi prompted. “Modi Sarkar,” the workers chanted on cue.
“I am not bothered by abuses heaped on me. Yesterday, when I was on my roadshow, people rebuked me on social media that I was not concerned about my security…What happened in Sri Lanka (bombings)…don’t go out alone at night. Modi is protected by crores of mothers and sisters of the country.”
The workers intermittently burst into cries of “Modi, Modi”.
The Prime Minister stopped at the famous Kal Bhairav temple in the city before filing his papers.
On Thursday, PM Modi began his 7-km roadshow by garlanding the statue of Madan Mohan Malviya at the iconic Banaras Hindu University. BJP president Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath accompanied him.
The roadshow was greeted by the sounds of drums and songs and supporters in “Namo Again” t-shirts or “Modi masks”. Many were dressed as gods and goddesses or as Lord Ram’s monkey army.
The roadshow ended at the Dashashwamedh Ghat after two-and-a-half hours. The prime minister attended the evening aarti on the banks of the river Ganga.
Speaking after the roadshow, the PM stressed on national security, saying the government had dealt effectively against terrorism. In an apparent reference to the Balakot air strike after Pakistan-based terrorists killed over 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama in February, PM Modi said the world now backed India in its fight against terror.
Varanasi will vote on the last day of the staggered election.
Facing PM Modi in Varanasi will be Ajay Rai of the Congress, who finished third in 2014. The Congress move ended speculation about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra challenging the Prime Minister in a giant clash this election.
In 2014, the BJP won 71 of Uttar Pradesh’s 80 seats.
PM Modi had won from Varanasi by a huge margin, winning 5.8 lakh votes. The Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal came second with around two lakh votes. Ajay Rai was left with a mere 75,000 votes.
The counting of votes will take place on May 23.