As Varanasi's mega electoral battle reaches a crescendo, the Congress on Wednesday stepped up offensive against Narendra Modi accusing him of invoking religious sentiments to woo voters as his "personality cult" campaign had failed, and tried to paint it as a fight between the "son of the soil" and "outsiders".
In a stinging attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate, his Congress rival Ajai Rai said the saffron party has changed most of the hoardings featuring Modi with 'abki baar Modi sarkar' punch line as such a campaign has been rejected by the people of the holy city.
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Rai, a Varanasi local and member of Legislative Assembly from the nearby Pindra assembly constituency, said as Modi's campaign centering around his personality has not been successful, his team has now started to focus on local issues.
"They have removed the hoardings based on Modi's personality cult and put up new ones where instead of 'Modi sarkar' they are talking about 'BJP sarkar'. The people of Varanasi have realised that Modi was trying to invoke religious sentiments to mislead them," Rai told PTI.
He also took strong objection to Modi promising to develop the banks of Ganges on the lines of development work along the Sabarmati River in Gujarat.
"Modi destroyed areas along Sabarmati by allowing setting up of five-star hotels and other constructions. Is he talking about imposing the Sabarmati model here? It will not be tolerated by the people of Varanasi. He will not understand the spiritual significance of Ganga for people here," Rai said.
"The people of Varanasi would like to keep Ganga as it is. They will not tolerate any dam or construction along it. The people of Varanasi have realised that Modi was trying to mislead them," he said.
Sounding confident of putting up a good show, Rai tried to project the fight as "local versus outsiders" who have little idea about the spiritual identity of the ancient temple town.
"History will be rewritten in Varanasi on May 12. It is fight between son of the soil and outsiders Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. People of Varanasi love me and I am confident of my success," Rai said.
Image: Congress candidate from Ajai Rai is up against BJP's Narendra Modi and AAP's Arvind Kejriwal