"Hey look, there goes Modi", people shout enthusiastically when they see a familiar face in a bazaar walkabout and waving to everyone. Onlookers run towards him to discover much to their chagrin that he is not actually the man who has in many ways taken this city by storm.
Meet Abhinandan Pathak, the 48-year-old lookalike of BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who not only bears striking resemblance to him but empathizes with him to the extent that he claims to have slipped into depression when Congress leader Imran
Masood publicly said that Modi will be "hacked to pieces".
A teacher by profession, Pathak has been "untiringly" campaigning in Varanasi for Modi, who is the BJP's Lok Sabha candidate from here.
"Working for Modiji is my duty as he is the one who can save this country," Pathak told IANS.
In the traditional Gujarati headgear and the trademark attire of the Gujarat chief minister, the gray-bearded Pathak can be seen on the roads of this temple town, asking the people to vote for Modi.
"Nobody addresses me as Abhinandan, but as Modi. Even my wife and kids call me Modi," Pathak told IANS. No one in the BJP has asked him to campaign, but Pathak took it on to himself to contribute in his own style by simply lending his face.
Besides canvassing in Varanasi, Pathak claims to have toured many cities of Gujarat, Bihar and Uttarakhand since January. Diatribes and hate speeches against Modi deeply affect Pathak, who is a resident of Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. "I went into deep depression for three days when Imran Masood threatened to hack Modi to pieces. My wife took me to a psychiatrist," he said.
Congress' Lok Sabha candidate in Saharanpur Imran Masood had publicly threatened to "chop Modi into pieces," kicking up a political storm.
A First Information Report against Modi for flashing BJP's electoral symbol near a polling booth at Vadodra in Gujarat has also left Pathak "shocked." "I am shocked, but I am unfazed in my work. I will continue working for him," Pathak told IANS.
"It gives me immense happiness when people call me Modi. It is a great feeling to be equated with someone who will be India's next prime minister," he said with confidence.
The electoral contest in Varanasi will be the most-watched as AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal is Modi's challenger. The holy city will go to the polls May 12 on the last day of the 10-phased general election. The results will be announced May 16. Pathak said that he had founded the Manvtawadi Party in 2012, which he later merged into the BJP. "This year, I merged my party into the BJP," he said.
Pathak, who says he is on his last leg of campaigning for Modi, is however miffed with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Despite his several letters to the BJP to make him the official campaigner of the party, he has not received any reply.
"I have written so many letters to the BJP's central office in Delhi, but I did not get any response," he said. "I even spoke to Amit Shah a couple of times but to no avail," Pathak rued. A former minister in Gujarat, Shah is the closest aide of Modi and looks after his campaign.
Pathak's only solace was getting a glimpse of Modi when he came to the holy city to file his nomination papers. "I was among the crowd and I saw him atop a truck. It was a moment which I will never forget," said Pathak, who one days wishes to meet Modi in person.