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Thanksgiving meal for team

Modi

New Delhi, July 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted the BJP’s Varanasi team that worked to ensure his Lok Sabha win to a thanksgiving meal at his Race Course Road residence tonight.

The team was led by party president Amit Shah, the central prabhari (minder) of Uttar Pradesh in the elections.

Among the guests were the state BJP president, Laxmi Kant Vajpayee, three party MLAs from Varanasi, mayor Ram Gopal Mohile and local office-bearers who included Modi’s campaign manager, Ashok Dhawan, and his aide, Bechan Ram Jaiswal.

This is Modi’s first interaction with the Varanasi contingent after becoming Prime Minister. He visited the city for a few hours on May 17, a day after he was declared a winner. He paid obeisance at the historic Kashi Vishwanath temple and performed an aarti on the banks of the Ganga, a ritual he wanted to enact before the elections but could not because the local administration denied permission.

Vajpayee said: “We are looking forward to the day he visits his constituency again. He will be given an unprecedented welcome.”

The Varanasi delegation that called on Shah at the BJP office also invited him to the city. Shah reportedly said he would come with his wife, Sonal, once she was through with family commitments.

In 2010, when Shah was externed from Gujarat after a court order saying his presence could colour the trial in the encounter killings in which he was an accused, he and his wife had spent a few months in Varanasi at the home of a friend who was a professor in Banaras Hindu University.

Sources close to Shah spoke of the “nostalgia” he experienced when he returned to oversee Modi’s campaign earlier this year.

“He was familiar with every nook and cranny of the BHU campus and its precincts. Every evening, he and his wife would walk along the ghats and savour the different chaats for which the city is known. They particularly relished the tomato chaat. He would spend a lot of time in the library,” a source said.

Asked what the talking points at Modi’s dinner table could be, Vajpayee said: “It’s an informal meeting. Obviously, Varanasi will be the focus. Especially Ganga’s purification. The PM has the country to mind. But we in Uttar Pradesh will make sure the party and the PM’s agendas for the city will be fulfilled.”