Is there a Modi wave?
There is one in Varanasi. And it breached the bunds on Thursday when Narendra Modi flew in to file his nomination papers for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat. Wave after wave of his supporters, sporting saffron caps with the 'Modi For PM' legend, thronged the 3km route he took. By the time he reached the district and sessions court, where he was to file the papers, they were like ants on an anthill, with BJP flags bristling in the air, shouting, 'Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi.'
By far it was the most impressive show of strength by any party in the fray for the seat in this Lok Sabha election. "The Modi wave just became a tsunami," said BJP's UP prabharak (in-charge) Amit Shah soon after. "The Modi wave will wash away the Congress, SP and the BSP from Uttar Pradesh."
Modi was no less pleased. "I am overwhelmed. The people of Varanasi have showered their love on me," said Modi, as he stepped in to file his nomination papers. "No one sent me here. I didn't come here on my own. I was called by Ganga Ma to Varanasi. I am like the son who has returned to his mother's lap. I want to serve the people of Varanasi. May Kashi emerge as the spiritual capital of the world."
The roadshow started from Patelia Chowk in the heart of the city, where Modi garlanded a statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, then wound its way through Nadesar, Andhrapaul, Lahurabir and Cantt localities.
The entire route was awash with the Great Unwashed of Varanasi, heads covered in Modi caps, many faces just masks of Modi, women wearing saffron 'BJP saris' and men sporting 'Modi for PM' t-shirts.
They had come from far and near, from the city and from the rural areas of the constituency. Riding motorcycles, young men cried hoarse shouting, "Ab ki baar Modi sarkar." The police left them alone though there were checkpoints and barriers erected at various places to keep cycle-rickshaws, Kashi's main mode of transport, from entering certain zones.
Earlier in the morning, Modi's chopper dropped him pat into the Benares Hindu University (BHU) campus, where he paid floral tributes to Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, who was a four-time president of the Congress Party, and whose son, a retired judge of the Allahabad high court, was one of the four men who proposed his name on Thursday to the returning officer.
There were unconfirmed reports that after Modi left BHU for Kashi Vidyapeeth, to garland the statue of Swami Vivekanand, some Congressmen "washed" Malviya's statue to rid it of the Modi stain.
All the while, thousands waited for Modi to emerge on the road for the roadshow to begin. They sat on rooftops, hung from balconies and stood precariously on walls with sharp iron pikes on them. There was always the fear of a stampede and a young man warned his friend that the trick lay in "not falling but going with the crowd". The heat was unbearable at 38 degree Celsius though in the shade of trees and awnings of buildings, it was cool. Mineral water bottles were much in demand but the supply soon ran out.
Finally, after many false alarms, Modi's helicopter was "spotted", and then a little later Modi himself waved to a crowd from an open truck. Dressed in a white kurta-pyjama, he stopped long enough to garland Patel's statue before setting out to kachcheri. BJP workers from the city's 90 wards followed him. It was a sea of BJP flags all the way. People stood in balconies and on rooftops all along the route to get a glimpse of the BJP's prime ministerial candidate. The route was entirely a BJP street. Almost every third house had a BJP flag flying and people — men, women and children — in the balconies sported the saffron 'Modi for PM' caps.
It was a spectacle. And a vision for any set of BJP eyes.
At the district and sessions court, there was elaborate security arrangement, with even the media not allowed in to witness the filing process. Only a couple of chosen media got that privilege. But Modi gave the byte the media was looking for. He spoke of the Ganga and what needs to be done to get the river cleaned. "I'll make it just like Sabarmati," he said.
Aside from Madan Mohan Malaviya's grandson, Giridhar Malaviya, other Modi proposers included Padma Vibhushan Chhandu Lal Mishra, a noted classical singer of Benaras, boatman Virbhadra Nishad and a weaver named Ashok. Symbolism aside, the BJP wanted to send the right message to the electorate and its rival with the choice of "proposers".
Missing from the list was, of course, tea vendor Pappu chaiwallah. In any case, Thursday was a day for cold drinks, not hot tea. That would come later in the evening.