Away from the din, on an evening when the city reverberated with pro-Modi chants, AAP candidate Arvind Kejriwal walked silently on the banks of the Ganga along with around ten of his supporters. Without banners, caps or slogans, the group went from Dashashwamedh ghat to Assi ghat. When some journalists recognised him, he just smiled and said "we will fight".
His crusade, in a city resonating with "Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi", is a difficult, but electrifying one.
Once the dust of campaigning settles, Kejriwal may leave for vipassana, a Buddhist meditation practice, cutting himself from the rest of the world for around ten days. AAP sources said he was planning to leave on May 12, last day of polling, and during his vipassana he was unlikely to have access to television, phones or newspapers. They said depending on results on May 16, he may be contacted though he has said others in the party will handle any situation.
Kejriwal, putting up in a a two-bedroom flat, has spent the past 25 days, barring two trips to Amethi, in Varanasi, beginning each day at 7 am.
On the streets of the choked city, where eyeball-to-eyeball slogan-shouting bouts between those wearing 'Modi for PM' saffron caps and groups sporting AAP's "mujhe chahiye swaraj" white caps were a common sight, not many seemed untouched by the blazing blitzkrieg of BJP, AAP and Congress. All three parties — BJP, AAP and Congress — made the Benaras Hindu University entrance the epicentre to flaunt their strength.
At the Rajesh tea stall nearby, the owner was irked with crowds which got in for shelter from the sun. "I dont back any political party... Please go and support whoever you want but let my customers come in for tea," he said.
But, as the scorching heat and political temperatures rose in Varanasi, there were not many like him. "We want Modi to win and get this place cleaned," said Suresh, who runs a boat at the Dushashwamed ghat, as crowds gather for the evening aarti.
While Modi has the edge of being seen as a candidate who could be the next prime minister, Kejriwal has the disadvantage of being seen by many as someone who quit as Delhi chief minister within 49 days.
But, some Muslim weavers who are supporting Kejriwal ask whether Modi would return to Varanasi if he becomes the prime minister. There are others in the community, who favour Congress's Ajai Rai, a son of the soil who is fighting two outsiders — Modi and Kejriwal, indicating a split in the Muslim vote.
In the BJP office, where Modi's victory is a foregone conclusion, a youth touches 'Narendra Modi's' feet only to realise he was just his clone. Party leaders claim the second position would go to Rai.
"Ajay Rai looked like he is resigned to sail away into the sunset. As for Kejriwal, its surprising how he built such a support base without an organisational base. The urban population is tilted towards Modi but in the villages Kejriwal seems to have an upper hand," says sociologist Dipankar Gupta, who is with the Shiv Nadar University, who was in Varanasi.