They have been making a beeline at the famous shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva since the past few days in Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency and the focus of the seventh phase of the Assembly elections.
Friday was a busy day for the temple as Modi, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Union minister Smriti Irani came to offer prayers. The Kashi Viswanath temple is one of the 12 ‘Jyotirlingas’ (special shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva) in the country.
The prime minister, who held a roadshow in the city on Friday to drum up support for BJP candidates, went to temple before the mega programme ended.
He is understood to have performed the Shodashupchara Shiva Puja.
Hours before Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi paid a visit to the temple. Irani had come earlier.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, who was in the temple town to hold a roadshow on Friday, reached the shrine at night to seek blessings.
On Wednesday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived in Varanasi and paid a visit to the temple.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath too offered prayers at the temple on the banks of the Ganga.
The list also includes Union ministers Anurag Thakur and Ashwani Choubey, and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.
“These are top VIPs, the temple saw many other central and state ministers and senior civil and police officials drop by as well,” the temple management said.
On what puja the prime minister and other dignitaries do, Durga Mishra, a priest of the temple, said they do the normal ones that everyone else does.
Nishi Kant Mishra who has conducted pujas for the prime minister many a times said he generally does the Shodashupachara Shiva Puja, which takes 15-20 minutes.
Priests at the temples confirmed that visits by politicians have increased during the election time.
Shastris (a category of priests) Nityanand Tripathi and Rakesh Kumar Tripathi said nobody is asked for any ‘dakshina’. “Whatever these VIPs have to donate they put it in the donation box.”
A total of 54 Assembly seats, including eight in Varanasi, will see voting on Monday to draw the curtains on the month-long elections in the politically crucial state.
Results will be declared on March 10, along with those in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.