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article imageIndian PM-to-be Narendra Modi visits ancient city of Varanasi

By Sravanth Verma     May 20, 2014 in World
Varanasi - India's Prime Minister-in-waiting Narendra Modi arrived at the ancient city of Varanasi, from where he contested in the just-concluded Indian elections, to visit its temples and the river Ganga.
Modi landed at the nearby Babatpur airport and flew to Varanasi by helicopter. He then headed to the main temple in the city, the Kashi Vishwanath temple, accompanied by a company of National Security Guard commandos and special troopers of the Uttar Pradesh Police’s anti-terrorist squad.
He was accompanied by the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rajnath Singh, and his close aide Amit Shah. Modi sat for a 45-minute puja (a ritual offering to the deity) at the temple, considered one of the most sacred in India.
Subodh Shastri, a priest at the temple, said that as per temple tradition, sandalwood paste was smeared on his forehead, and he was given a cloth and a rudraksha, a necklace of rosary beads, as a memento.
Modi then left for the Dashashwamedh Ghat on the banks of the Ganga where he participated in the Ganga Aarti, a 30-minute offering of gratitude and devotion towards the river. He spent over 90 minutes at the banks of the river. The Times of India reports, "As the soulful renditions and vedic hymns were sung, Modi tapped along and seemed lost in the spiritually charged atmosphere."
Modi urged the city populace to contribute towards establishing Varanasi as a center of cultural ans spiritual excellence. He urged them not to dump garbage on the city roads, and assured them he would do what he could to clean up the Ganga.
Varanasi was one of the ancient centers of culture and spirituality in India, and is several thousand years old. It was at Sarnath, on the outskirts of Varanasi, that Gautama Buddha held his first sermon 2500 years ago. In recent years, Varanasi has grown congested, with filth and heavy traffic clogging its narrow lanes.
Modi contested the recently concluded Indian parliamentary elections from two seats, one in his political stronghold in Gujarat and another in Varanasi. He won by a margin of over 300,000 votes. Also in the fray at Varanasi was Arvind Kejrival of the Aam Aadmi Party. Riding on the back of a massive campaign by Modi and numerous scandals and corruption cases against the incumbent Congress government, the BJP won a simple majority in the 543-seat parliament, a first for any party in three decades.
Modi has asked his team to reach out to Varanasi's bureaucracy and intellectuals to seek feedback on what the top priorities are to bring Varanasi into the modern era. A senior BJP leader said, "We have been advised to reach out to people seeking advice on the changes they think Varanasi and the rest of East UP needs. While Varanasi will be developed as a model city, the ripple effects will also be felt in the neighbouring districts."
Schemes are planned to ease traffic congestion with 60 flyovers. Professor of political science at the Banaras Hindu University, KK Mishra, said, "Team Modi plans, primarily, to focus on restoring the Ganga to the glory it had known in the 1970s. There are also plans afoot to crack down on commercial activities on the ghats."
Partymen confirmed that Varanasi's development would follow the lines of Gujarat's progress. Modi has been the Chief Minister of Gujarat for 12 straight years. "That Kashi is set to see considerable change is certain. The model of development that Gujarat saw implemented — transparently and efficiently — is what has been envisaged for Varanasi and other Eastern pockets as well," a party functionary said.
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