Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress Party on Saturday engaged in a verbal spat over the Election Commission's (EC's) decision to allow Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to undertake a roadshow in the Muslim dominant and congested Bemiyan area of Varanasi, while at the same time denying BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi permission to address a rally in the vicinity a couple of days ago.
Meenakshi Lekhi, the BJP's candidate for the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency, said on Saturday that, "None of the top Uttar Pradesh police officers had expressed security concerns on Modi holding the rally in Bemiyan, and squarely blamed Varanasi's District Magistrate and Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav for denying permission to the BJP and to Modi.
She further said that the BJP had no objection to Rahul Gandhi holding 50 roadshows in Varansi or anywhere else in the country, "but denying us (BJP) permission and allowing him is wrong."
Congress leaders Meem Afzal and Randeep Surjewala, however, described both Narendra Modi and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal as rank opportunists for choosing to campaign and seek the right to represent the people of Varanasi in Parliament.
"Ajay Rai (Congress candidate) has huge local silent support, which neither Modi nor Kejriwal has," said Meem Afzal
"Neither Mr.Modi nor Mr.Kejriwal have anything to do with Varanasi,they are opportunists. Mr.Rai is a popular local," said Randeep Surjewala.
BJP leader and spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad predicted that Modi will win in Varanasi by lakhs of votes, while his rivals would lose their deposits.
The BJP and Congress leaders were speaking to ANI separately even as Rahul Gandhi is campaigning in Varanasi for Congress candidate Ajay Rai, who is pitted against Modi and Kejriwal.
The roadshow started from Gol Gadda area of Varanasi and will extend for about 11 kilometres. The Congress supporters had already gathered before the Congress vice president arrived.
Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mukul Wasnik are accompanying Rahul.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is also slated to hold a rally in Varanasi today.