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'Modi got Kashi Vishwanath's blessings, others didn't'

twitter-logoPTI | May 23, 2019 | Updated 23:15 IST

By Rajendra Gupta (Eds: Updates story, adds quotes) Varanasi, May 23 (PTI) As Prime Minister Narendra Modi romped home from Varanasi, improving his winning margin by over a lakh votes compared to the last time, some saw a divine hand in the victory. "Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again got the blessings of Baba Kashi Vishwanath, Kashi’s guardian Kaal Bhairav and Maa Ganga,” said Shyam Kumar Pandey, owner of a saree-making unit. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh Yadav too had come seeking their blessings, he said. But they didn’t get them as they were just “imitating” Modi, the businessman argued. Modi Thursday won from Varanasi, defeating his nearest rival SP's Shalini Yadav by margin of nearly 4.80 lakh votes. In the 2014 elections, he had defeated Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal by over 3.70 lakh votes for the same seat. Among the projects begun by the PM in Varanasi is the construction of a corridor to provide easier access to the Kashi Vishwanath temple. Suresh Tulsiyan, a trader, said Modi has done “unprecedented” work for improving Varanasi over the last five years. Upbeat party workers took out victory processions in localities like Godaulia, Sigra, Pandeypur, Chowkaghat, Ravindrapuri and Lanka. "Today, we feel proud of being residents of Varanasi," Shalini Singh said. Amid the sound of drums and chanting of slogans, BJP leader Laxman Acharya said, "Modiji has worked for all sections of society, be it men, women, the disabled or the elderly.” “All of them have given an overwhelming mandate to Modi," he said. "The days of those who indulged in caste politics are gone. The opposition parties have nothing to say except cast aspersions on EVMs," he said, referring to the row over electronic voting machines. Social activist and Congress supporter Kaushal Rai disagreed. “PM Narendra Modi has mixed up issues relating to health and education with nationalism," he said. Saree-factory owner Pandey said Modi’s Swachh Bharat campaign too had helped the city, where people just love their `paan’ -- immortalised by the 'Khaike paan Banaraswala' song from Amitabh Bachchan-starrer ‘Don’. "They haven’t given up chewing paan, but have stopped spitting randomly at public places following Modi’s appeal. They now spit at designated spots," he said. On the counting day morning, as the trends came in, the city’s paan shops here offered lively discussions. “The people this time have voted for development," local resident Manoj Mishra said, claiming caste stopped being a factor. More than the paan', the tv installed at the Baiju Bhaiya Tambul Bhandar on Sigra Road appeared to be a bigger draw for the customers. Some shopkeepers seemed to have decided to take the morning off, preferring to watch the counting trends on the tv at their homes. Ranjit Thakur, who had his morning cup of tea at the Baldev tea stall in Mahmoorganj, found the shop shut. "Baldevji is an ardent Modi fan. He has kept his shop closed so that he doesn't not to miss the results, particularly the round-wise trends," Thakur said. "There was no one in the contest against Modi here. Not only in Varanasi, people were voting in his name everywhere and it seems caste-based politics is coming to an end," he said. Prajanath Misra, the district unit president of the Congress, said the results reflected the mood of the people in Varanasi. "It also shows the shortcoming in our management. There appears to be lack of coordination between Lucknow and Delhi. We did not get the star campaigners which we had sought," he said. "However, we have kept the party alive under such strong opposition at every level," he added. On the opposition SP-BSP alliance in the state, the Congress leader claimed the two parties had come together in Uttar Pradesh only to help Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party. He said had the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party been really serious about the elections, they would have tied up with other opposition parties in the country. The prime minister held a mega show of strength, spread over two days here, before filing his nomination on April 26. During his roadshow, thousands thronged the streets of the temple town, chanting, Modi, Modi' and 'Main Bhi Chowkidar. BJP leaders like Amit Shah, Piyush Goyal, Sushma Swaraj and Yogi Adityanath also campaigned in the prime minister's constituency. Opposition parties led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati also held roadshows and rallies in Varanasi. Ajai Rai, the Congress nominee against Modi, is a five-time MLA who was once with the BJP. SP-BSP alliance nominee Shalini Yadav is the daughter of former Union minister Shyam Lal Yadav. She contested the mayoral polls in Varanasi in 2017, securing 1.14 lakh votes and finishing second. Briefly, there was a buzz over the possibility of Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi herself taking Modi on in Varanasi. But the Congress decided not to field her. PTI RAJ SAB NAV SMI PTI ASH ASH

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