Ahead of BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's visit tomorrow, the poll fever in this holy town has entered totally uncharted territories of rotis, laddoos, balloons, bricks and jackets. BJP supporters are placing mass orders of many products with 'NaMo' mark on it while makers of these items are happily reciprocating to cash in on these 'electoral gains'.
Modi will address two rallies here tomorrow to canvass support for his Lok Sabha fight, while he is also expected to participate in Ganga Arti -- a daily ritual on the Ganga ghats here every evening. He is expected to address the public first at Rohaniya (a rural area in the outer region of Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency and a bit away from the main city) and later at highly-populated Beniya Bagh within the city.
Incidentally, both Rohaniya and Beniya Bagh have significant population of Muslim community, whose votes are being targeted by all non-BJP parties while Modi has also said earlier that Muslims of Varanasi would love him when he comes to Varanasi. In the meantime, some dhabas are even putting the 'NaMo' mark and BJP's Lotus symbol on rotis made for customers, although there have also been instances when customers have refused to eat at such stalls after being served these items.
Taking a cue from Western countries, including the US Presidential election, election merchandising has emerged as a major trend in the ongoing elections. While Aam Aadmi Party has also tried to make use of various merchandise such as caps, T-shirts and their election symbol 'broom', it is the supporters of BJP and Modi who have taken a big lead on this front.
As a result, a number of products in markets here are being sold with the 'NaMo' -- now famous initials for Narendra Modi -- mark, ranging from bricks to balloons to laddoos to jackets and other merchandise. Makers and sellers of many of these products said that they began doing so after huge orders were placed with them by BJP supporters, while some neutral customers are also joining in to be part of the trend.
When contacted, BJP leaders said this has nothing to do with the official party campaigning programme, but some enthusiastic supporters might have come out with such innovative ideas.
At the same time, a senior Congress leader charged that the markets are being flooded with such products to create a 'forced' wave, while similar charges were made by many others from Congress party and other opposition parties.
Not to be left behind, there are also shopkeepers, including vegetable vendors, who are claiming to offer discounts to their customers who promise to vote for Modi in the Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for May 12. Besides Modi, AAP's Arvind Kejriwal and Congress' Ajay Rai are also in the fray in this Lok Sabha seat which has over 16 lakh voters spread across five assembly constituencies.