"With around 1.6 million voters, Varanasi will go the polls May 12 -- the last round of the staggered general election."
By Gaurav Sharma

Varanasi, April 24 - The Hindu holy city Thursday became a sea of saffron as BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi set out to file his nomination papers for the Lok Sabha election, backed by thousands of cheering supporters.

A mass of Bharatiya Janata Party activists, many waving party flags and sporting saffron caps, as well as residents walked with Modi as his open vehicle crawled through the streets to the district magistrate's office.

Modi, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election also from Vadodara in Gujarat, kept waving to the crowds amid roaring slogans hailing him. Roads were jammed and Modi admirers virtually took over the streets.

Varanasi residents who spoke to IANS said they were confident of the Gujarat chief minister's victory from Varanasi.

Modi is sure to win here. There is no scope for - Kejriwal, said a professor at the Banaras Hindu University from where the BJP veteran began his show of strength.

The academic added that development was more important an issue for Varanasi's voters than corruption -- a pet theme of Kejriwal, the former Delhi chief minister.

Praful Krishan, a BHU scholar, said he had no particular political leanings but would vote for Modi as I don't see any other alternative and the Congress has ruined the country.

Another Varanasi resident, Ram Mehta, was emphatic: No one can challenge Modi. He is our future prime minister. And Varanasi will be proud to be represented in parliament by its prime minister.

Basmati Devi, a woman in her 50s, said she had never seen such a large gathering in Varanasi.

Looking his usual confident self, Modi flew into Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, Thursday -- a day after Kejriwal filed his nomination -- and made his way to BHU to garland its founder, Madan Mohan Malaviya.

His arrival at the spot sent the crowd into a frenzy. There were resonating slogans of Narendra Modi, Zindabad!. Modi greeted the party activists with a wave of hands.

From there began the roadshow, with his confidant Amit Shah in company. No other nationally known BJP leader could be spotted.

As Modi's vehicle inched its way to the district magistrate's office, people showered rose petals on him. Many were perched on the road dividers and many more watched the show from windows and roofs of homes on both sides of the roads.

Modiji is our future, and the entire BHU is with him, said an undergraduate student of the university wearing a Modi mask -- like many others.

Modi's main opponents here are Kejriwal and Ajay Rai of the Congress.

With around 1.6 million voters, Varanasi will go the polls May 12 -- the last round of the staggered general election.

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