Varanasi is set to witness a clash of titans as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, BSP supremo Mayawati and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will be in this temple town for campaigning.
This is probably for the first time that any place in the state will have such near-simultaneous high-profile VVIP presence.
Security has been beefed up in the city and officials of the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) which guards PM Modi and Rahul are camping here to ensure that the entire route where these VVIPs will move is sanitised and protected.
Amid the high-voltage electioneering, PM Modi, who is also the Lok Sabha MP from here, will also offer prayers at Kashi Vishwanath and Kal Bhairav temples and meet people in various areas after beginning his day from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) around 9 am.
The Prime Minister’s road show will start from the BHU gate and will go through Ravidas Lanka gate, Assi, Bhadaini, Sonarpura, Madanpura, Gaudolia, Bans Phatak and would then offer prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath temple. He will then move to Chowk, Nichibagh, Maidagin, Kotwali Thana, Visheshwarganj, Gujratat temple and then to the Kaal Bhairav temple.
He will then proceed to Jaunpur to address an election rally, only to return and meet intellectuals of the city, party workers and then fly back to New Delhi around 9 pm.
Akhilesh Yadav who is also the Samajwadi Party (SP) president, will address two public rallies in Tandia and Munari after which he will join Rahul for a 9-km long road show. His wife and Kannauj MP Dimple Yadav is also likely to join the road show.
Four-time UP Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati is to address a rally at Jagatpur.
The district administration has tried to draw the route plan in such a way that the leaders and their supporters do not come in each other's way. Intelligence agencies have also been pressed into service to ensure that the VVIP movement goes on unhindered and safely.
The festive season, with the festival of colours Holi around the corner and the narrow lanes of the temple town have added to the worries of the security agencies. The campaign by these high-profile leaders would coincide with the balloting in 49 seats in the neighbourhood under the penultimate phase of the seven-phase staggered elections.
Varanasi and neighbouring districts will go to the polls in the final phase on March 8.