11:42 am - Friday November 6, 2015

Rahul Gandhi’s Tit-For-Tat Roadshow in Varanasi

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Varanasi: Rahul Gandhi, wearing a Nehru topi in Congress colours, stood in a crowded open jeep and waved to the people of Varanasi as he toured the city in a revenge roadshow.

The streets are packed with people waving Congress flags and many more have come out on to the terraces of houses to catch a glimpse of the 43-year-old Mr Gandhi. With him are senior Congress leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mukul Wasnik and Rashid Alvi.

On the last day of campaigning in Varanasi, Mr Gandhi is here to seek votes for Ajai Rai, the local leader his party has fielded against Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.

On Monday Mr Modi had stormed Amethi, Mr Gandhi’s constituency since 2004, in the last hours of campaigning there. Mr Gandhi, 43, is seen as returning the compliment today.

While Mr Modi and his chief challenger in Varanasi, Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party chose to begin their roadshows in the Lanka area of the city, Mr Gandhi will end his 11-km journey there.

The Congress has chosen Gol Gadda as the starting point with an eye on the large Muslim presence in the area. The Congress and Mr Kejriwal are fighting for the attention of Muslims, about 15 per cent of Varanasi’s population.

But Mr Azad emphasised, “The Congress has mustered support from all sections of this seat. We are 100% confident of a win.”

The effort today is to draw the maximum crowds to demonstrate a show of strength. People have poured in from neighbouring districts and the NSUI, the students wing of the Congress and an organisation Mr Gandhi has mentored, has been tasked with ensuring that the roadshow draws massive crowds.

The benchmark here is Narendra Modi’s colossal roadshows.

The BJP leader held a spectacular roadshow on the day he filed his nomination papers. On Thursday, refused permission by the Election Commission to hold a rally in the heart of Varanasi, Mr Modi retaliated with a drive-through, drawing such a crowd that his convoy took three hours to cover four kilometres.

Mr Kejriwal held his own roadshow on Friday and will hold one again today. Around noon, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav too will land in Varanasi to campaign for his party’s candidate.

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