PM Modi draws massive crowd at Varanasi roadshow; Congress keeps Priyanka Gandhi out of race

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi. (Reuters)

A day before filing his nomination from Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday held a mega roadshow in the temple town as thousands lined the streets to take a glimpse of their star candidate. The PM later tweeted that he was "grateful for the warmth and affection" shown by the people of Kashi.

As chants of ‘Modi, Modi’ rent the air, the PM’s cavalcade traversed through Assi Ghat, Bhadaini, Sonarpura, Madanpura, Jangambadi, Godowlia before concluding at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, where he performed the evening aarti.

Modi began the roadshow by garlanding the statue of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya outside the Banaras Hindu University.

He was accompanied by BJP chief Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and other top alliance leaders, in what turned out to be a show of strength aimed at demonstrating the NDA's unity against the Opposition.

Narendra Modi gestures during a roadshow in Varanasi. (Reuters)

Earlier in the day, Congress ended the speculation of a riveting clash between Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the PM in Varanasi after the party fielded Ajay Rai from the temple town.

Rai had unsuccessfully contested against Modi in 2014 and finished third in the contest after the BJP leader and Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal.

It was widely speculated that Priyanka would contest the polls from Varanasi and her recent remarks had only added grist to the rumour mill. On Monday, the Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh reiterated that she was ready to contest against PM Modi from Varanasi if the party asked her to do so.

In photos | PM's show of strength in Varanasi

Reacting to Congress’ decision not to field Priyanka from Varanasi, Union Minister Arun Jaitley said, "Deeply disappointed with the Congress party's decision of not fielding Priyanka Gandhi from Varanasi. The last two months that she has been in the public life has driven home the point, ‘India has changed, dynasties don't matter’. Her exit from the contest shows what matters."

PM Modi began the roadshow by garlanding the statue of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. (Reuters)

On Friday, the PM will address booth heads and party workers at 9.30 am and go on to worship the city god Kal Bhairav at 11 am. "At 11.30 am, PM will file his nomination for Varanasi Lok Sabha seat," said the BJP.

Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former CM Parkash Singh Badal, Lok Janshakti Party chief and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, along with leaders of the AIADMK, Asom Gana Parishad, Apna Dal (S) and constituents of the North-East Democratic Alliance are expected to be present.