Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Rahul Gandhi and BSP supremo Mayawati will descend on Varanasi on Saturday making it their battleground ahead of the last phase of Uttar Pradesh polls, a schedule that has put the administration on its toes.
According to the programme received by the Varanasi district administration, Modi is scheduled to arrive at his Lok Sabha constituency at about 3pm and leave for the Kashi Vishwanath temple after resting for an hour at the guest house of the Benares Hindu University.
After offering prayers at Kashi Vishwanath, Modi will visit the Kaal Bhairav temple, situated a kilometre away.
Modi will then leave for the Kashi Vidyapith University where he is scheduled to address his first public meeting in the ancient temple city during the ongoing assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
In what is likely to cause jitters to the administration and badly affect traffic in the city known for its congested streets, the prime minister’s tour will be coinciding with a joint road show by Gandhi and Yadav.
The road show was postponed twice last month and is now being held with two more days to go for campaigning in the final lap of seven-phase assembly polls.
A 10 km-long route has been finalised by the district administration in consultation with the elite Special Protection Group which provides security cover to both Modi and Gandhi.
The road show will commence at the Kutchery and conclude at Girijaghar — a church situated in Godaulia locality — close to Kashi Vishwanath and Kaal Bhairav temples.
The SP-Congress alliance hopes to cause an upset in three of the five Assembly segments falling under Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency currently held by the BJP.
Fighting separately in 2012, the two parties had together polled more votes than the BJP in all the three seats, with the Congress finishing as the runner-up in two of these — Varanasi South and Varanasi Cantonment.
In Varanasi North, SP had finished third, behind BJP and BSP, and was followed closely by the Congress.
All the three seats — which cover almost the entire city — are being contested by the Congress this time, while the SP is fighting the predominantly rural Rohaniya and Sevapuri.
The day will also be marked by a rally of Mayawati in Rohaniya.
The seat was wrested by the SP from the Apna Dal in a by-poll necessitated three years ago by sitting MLA Anupriya Patel’s election to the Lok Sabha.
Patel is now a Union minister and her party has suffered a split.
The faction headed by her is contesting the polls in alliance with the BJP while the one led by her mother Krishna is fighting separately.
Although Modi’s programme for March 5-6 is yet to reach the district administration, according to party sources, the PM is likely to return to his parliamentary constituency on Sunday evening to hold a rally.
He is likely to reach the rally’s venue in a procession resembling a road show before going to the guest house of Diesel Locomotive Works where he might informally interact with nearly 2,000 distinguished citizens and, thereafter, retire for the day.
On Monday, the final day of campaigning for the seventh phase, Modi is expected to visit Ramnagar area across the Ganga, where Lal Bahadur Shastri had spent his early childhood, and garland a statue of the former Prime Minister.
Then, Modi is likely to sign off with a rally in Rohaniya.
Stakes are particularly high for the BJP in the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency.
Top leaders like party chief Amit Shah and vice president in-charge of UP Om Mathur have been conducting whirlwind tours of the city while Union ministers like Arun Jaitley, Smriti Irani and Piyush Goyal have been interacting with citizens from different walks of life.
The road so far…