He pointed out how he had helped Gujarat's Muslim kite makers to improve their lot and said he would do the same for the Muslim weavers of Varanasi with modern technology, branding, designing and marketing.

Modi said that he wanted to see Varanasi become an internationally known spiritual capital.

"Nobody told me to come here, nobody sent me. Mother Ganga has invited me... May she bless me. May God give me strength to serve Ganga-Yamuna tehzeeb," he said, shortly before filing his nomination papers from here.

He also pledged to clean up the Ganges, as he had done with the Sabarmati River in Gujarat.

"I thank the people of Varanasi for giving me so much love," he said.

Earlier, Modi welcomed his supporters with folded hands, garlanded the statue of Banaras Hindu University founder Madan Mohan Malviya.

He headed a 2 km long roadshow to the Collectorate where he filed his nomination papers.

Madan Mohan Malaviya's grandson Giridhar Malaviya, a retired judge of the Allahabad High Court, proposed Modi's nomination. Among the other Modi proposers were Padma Vibhushan Chhandu Lal Mishra, a noted classical singer of Benaras, boatman Virbhadra Nishad and Ashok, representing the dominant weaver community.

Modi will lock horns with Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and Congress leader Ajay Rai in the prestigious parliamentary constituency. The Samajwadi Party has fielded Kailash Chaurasiya, who is a sitting MLA from nearby Mirzapur. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded Vijay Prakash Jaisawal, while CPI (M) has given ticket to veteran party worker Heera Lal Yadav. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has fielded Indira Tiwari.

Polling in Varanasi would be held in the last phase of Lok Sabha elections on 12th May.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi had won the seat defeating gangster-cum-politician Mukhtar Ansari by a margin of 17,000 votes.

(JPN/Agencies)

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