Varanasi under spotlight as UP polls end today

7 Mar 2017

All eyes will be on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi as voters in 40 seats in the UP assembly polls' seventh and last phase cast their votes on Wednesday.

Raising the stakes, Modi has done unprecedented level of canvassing in his home turf, which has five assembly seats, by campaigning in the city for three days on the trot. His rivals, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav of SP and his ally Rahul Gandhi of the Congress, have sought to corner the prime minister in the city by carrying out intensive campaign, including taking a big road show. The BJP, which is hopeful of capturing power in the state after 15 years in the wilderness, virtually functioned out of the holy city as its chief Amit Shah and other top party leaders shifted their base here weeks ahead of the polls.

However, it was the Prime Minister who left no stone unturned as he criss-crossed his constituency. He held two back-to-back road shows, addressed four public meetings, visited an influential ashram and offered tributes to former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri - all in a span of three days - as he sought votes for his party candidates. The BJP holds three and the Samajwadi Party two of the five seats in the outgoing Assembly but the former is making a determined bid to oust rival parties from Modi's turf. But it has met a formidable challenger in the SP-Congress alliance and a massive road show by Yadav and Gandhi through the heart of the city has sparked some concerns in the saffron camp.

Political observers believe that such a keen contest and campaigning should result in a relatively high polling percentage. The seats going to polls also include home turf of three union ministers - Mahendra Nath Pandey, Anupriya Patel and Manoj Sinha. Pandey, Patel and Sinha are MPs from Chandauli, Mirzapur and Gazipur respectively. In the last Assembly polls, SP had won 23 of the 40 seats, BSP won 5, the BJP 4 and the Congress 3 with the rest won by others.