On a whirlind day in his Lok Sabha constituency to rally voters around the Bharatuya Janata Party in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a road show, offered prayers at two historic temples and paid tributes to Hindutva ideologue Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya on Saturday.
His road show was scheduled on a day when 49 constituencies went to the polls in the sixth phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
BJP leaders believe that the hours-long event, broadcast live on most of the regional TV news channels, will help their cause when the 40 remaining seats go to the polls in the final phase on March 8.
The road show started from the Banaras Hindu University after Modi paid tributes to the statue of Malviya.
People turned out in large numbers as the prime minister's cavalcade moved at a snail's pace. 'Subah Banaras, sham Banaras; Modi tere naam Banaras' and 'Modi, Modi' slogans were raised by the supporters as he waved at them.
Modi later offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath and Kaal Bhairav temples, two foremost Hindu holy places in the ancient city.
The BJP, which is locked in a tight electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh with the SP-Congress alliance and the Mayawati-led BSP, hopes that a good performance in the eastern parts of the state will take it past the majority mark in the 403-member state assembly.
The only other time Modi held a road show here was in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls after he picked Varanasi as one of his seats. The BJP swept the 2014 polls in Uttar Pradesh, winning 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats, along with its ally Apna Dal.
Three years later, the saffron camp is once again relying heavily on Modi to deliver the goods in Uttar Pradesh where it has been out of power for 15 years. It has organised many more public meetings of the prime minister than was anticipated earlier.
Quite a few public events of Modi are lined up in the region tomorrow and the day after, the final day of campaigning for the seventh and last phase of polling on March 8.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi are also holding a road-show in the city. BSP chief Mayawati too addressed a public rally at Rohaniya, around 20 km from Varanasi.