'Varanasi has seen elections for ages, but this one is different. Different, in the sense, that it is like an invasion.'
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com visits the buzzing hub of Narendra Modi's campaign in Varanasi.
'Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war.'
The line from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar best describes Banaras today.
Kashi, Banaras or Varanasi is timeless, it is also a city that never sleeps.
"It is a city like no other in the world, we go seeking life and work in the rest of the world, this is the only city where people come to seek death," a senior journalist tells me, adding, "here, death is a celebration."
"Varanasi has seen elections for ages," adds Anand, a lawyer, "but this one is different. Different, in the sense, that it is like an invasion. We have never had so many outsiders camping and campaigning in our midst."
In the heart of Varanasi, the Bharatiya Janata Party has taken over the ground floor in a multi-storey apartment. Insiders say the party has also rented six apartments in the floors above.
At the entrance is a large picture of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Narendra Modi, the BJP's candidate in Varanasi and its prime ministerial nominee, models himself on the 'Iron Man'.
There is a constant movement of SUVs in and out of the complex. A huge and very colourful crowd of young and old, women and men, jostle for space. Everyone looks and sounds important. But there is a clear hierarchy of age and designation.
There is also a clear division of labour. Rajan Singh is responsible for all BJP workers coming to Varanasi from outside the city. Singh receives them and tells them what he expects them to do.
Every morning they meet him for instructions and he keeps them occupied for the whole day. There are almost 2 million voters in this constituency so there is enough work for all who come to make Modi win with a huge margin.
A Muslim lady, who canvasses in areas where her community lives, tells Singh that she is not getting enough support. Singh smiles and assures her that he will leave no stone unturned to help her.
People want scarves, caps, flags, banners and pamphlets. Singh directs them to individuals in charge of that particular activity. Photo copying machines hum continuously, churning out copies for all who want them. Computers are active as e-mails pour in from BJP offices elsewhere.
Campaign committee member Anup Gupta keeps workers informed on e-mail about all the star campaigners who will visit in the next few days.
One man walks around carrying a huge lotus. He claims he walks through Varanasi every day and hopes to cover the whole city by Election Day, May 12.
Bhojpuri actor and sometime Bigg Boss contestant Manoj Tiwari is arriving the next day, informs one printout. It gives the exact time Tiwari will land at Varanasi airport and which parts of the constituency he will cover; the actor will travel by helicopter and car.
Party cadres are asked to turn up in large numbers at venues where the star campaigner will be present.
BJP President Rajnath Singh and Shatrughan Sinha, the MP and candidate from Patna, are also expected to canvass votes for Modi.
Modi himself is expected on May 8 followed by the BJP's Amethi candidate, Smriti Irani.
Surya Pratap Singh Sayee, a former state BJP president, is mobbed by supporters when he arrives at the campaign hub. Everybody present, it appears, wants a word with him. Some youngsters click his photograph on their mobiles.
Banaras, they say, never sleeps. This office too will not sleep till the last vote is polled on Monday.
Image: BJP volunteers get their instructions at Narendra Modi's campaign headquarters in Varanasi. Photograph: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com