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'I came to campaign for Modi in Varanasi, not the BJP'

May 10, 2014 22:19 IST

'I came to campaign for Modi in Varanasi, not the BJP'

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A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com in Varanasi

As the election campaign for the 16th Lok Sabha drew to a close on Saturday, May 10, Varanasi looked like a city undergoing an exodus.

According to the Election Commission guidelines, those engaged in campaign activities -- if they were not voters in the constituency, irrespective of their party or candidate affiliation -- would have to leave the city after canvassing ended.

A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com takes stock as the whirlwind campaign in Varanasi ended.

The first to leave Varanasi were Bharatiya Janata Party workers as they did not have many important things to do on Saturday. The BJP had its show of strength on Thursday when Narendra Modi, the party candidate, traveled through Varanasi's streets.

The Aam Aadmi Party workers stayed put until Saturday afternoon since they had a road show to cater to. They were then seen leaving Varanasi with their bags and their jhadoos (the broom, the AAP's election symbol).

Congress workers were in full force until the afternoon owing to Rahul Gandhi's road show, which the Congress scion finished in an open jeep.

Hampering everyone who wanted to leave was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who started his rally two hours after Rahul Gandhi finished his. Traffic jams were the order of the day, though most residents stayed indoors because of the blazing sun and the three rallies.

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Image: Supporters wave BJP flags in Varanasi. Inset: Dr Babita Tiwari.
Photographs: Main image: Sandeep Pal/Rediff.com. Inset: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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'I came to campaign for Modi in Varanasi, not the BJP'

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A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

The BJP office in the Sigra area is free of frenetic activity. One young man wants a room to stay, but is told curtly, "Everyone has to leave on Saturday; no more room allotment."

Most of the BJP workers who manned the desks have left. A few are still around and seem reluctant to leave -- Varanasi has that kind of effect on you.

Prashant Rastogi, a native of Rajasthan, has been in Varanasi since April 12.

"I was doing door to door canvassing for Modiji. I like him because of his decisiveness," says Prashant.

"Initially, I was doing this campaign on my own money. Once I started working in the office, they provided me with a place to stay and food," he says.

"I was deputed here because I know data entry. I am a teacher and run coaching classes back home, which I had to suspend to come here. I have an MBA in IT," he adds proudly.

"I have always been a BJP supporter. This is the first time I have been out of town without my wife after I got married four years ago. She only allowed me because she too is a Modi fan," he says with a smile.

Babita Tiwari has a Phd in sociology and is a professor at the Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj University in Kanpur. "I have been in the city for 20 days," she says.

"I have been working at the central campaign office for two weeks and was looking after the volunteers who came in from outside Varanasi. I organised their food and stay," she says.

"We asked everyone to leave on May 10," says Dr Tiwari, "so everyone has made their travel arrangements in advance."

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Image: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav campaigns with Samajwadi Party leaders in Varanasi.
Photographs: Sandeep Pal/Rediff.com

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'I came to campaign for Modi in Varanasi, not the BJP'

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A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Vikas Pande is a final year student at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay. A native of Ayodhya, Vikas has been in Varanasi since May 1.

"My job was allocation of work, so I met a lot of people. We had people of all kinds come in here -- MPs, MLAs, ministers -- we had to speak nicely to all of them. I have learnt to manage people," he says.

"I spent my own money. I didn't eat here. I stayed with a friend. I haven't decided whether I should go back to my college in Mumbai or go home to Ayodhya," he says.

"I don't know if I will do the same work in the next election. I like the development agenda that Modi has promised," says the IIT-ian. "I did not come here for the BJP."


Image: A man with a cup carrying a portrait of Narendra Modi. Inset: Vikas Pande.
Photographs: Main image: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters. Inset: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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