Varanasi: Picking up a spade, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched the 'Swachh Bharat' campaign in his Lok Sabha constituency removing silt deposited along the banks of the River Ganga here and nominated nine persons, including Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, to carry forward the drive in UP.
Winding up a two-day whirlwind tour of his constituency, the first after assuming power, Modi initiated the cleanliness drive at Assi Ghat, the oldest ghat of Varanasi, where he dug vigorously with a spade, removing the silt that had gathered there.
After digging for about 15 minutes, he shared his plans of spreading the cleanliness drive across Uttar Pradesh in general and Varanasi in particular.
"I have come here to exhort the people of Kashi to become active participants in removing filth from the ghats along the Ganges. I have been assured by social organisations here that in one month's time all the ghats will become spotlessly clean. I expect that the words will translate into deeds", Modi told reporters at the ghat.
The Prime Minister said that like in Delhi, where he had launched the campaign by nominating nine celebrities, he had chosen an equal number of renowned persons in UP to carry forward the drive.
The nine persons named by him included the UP Chief Minister, party MP and Bhojpuri Singer Manoj Tiwari, Sufi singer Kailash Kher, stand-up comedian Raju Srivastava and cricketers Suresh Raina and Mohd Kaif.
The remaining three persons nominated by the PM were - founder and Chancellor of the University for the Blind at Chitrakoot, Swami Rambhadracharya, noted Sanskrit scholar Devi Prasad Dwivedi and writer Manu Sharma, best known for his book - Krishn Ki Atmakatha (autobiography of Lord Krishna).
After leaving Assi Ghat, where he started off with special prayers to the holy river, he visited a nearby ashram set up by the followers of spiritual leader Sri Anandamayi Maa where he garlanded a statue of the 20th century saint and paid a visit to a charitable hospital in the premises.
The Prime Minister later left for Delhi.
Last night, meeting the city's intelligentsia over dinner, the Prime Minister gave an assurance to them that the sanctity (garima) of Varanasi would be kept intact and that "Kashi would be transformed into a modern city while retaining its traditional flavour, as the world has seen in London and something we had attempted with success in quake-hit Bhuj when I was the Chief Minister of Gujarat".
He also shared a number of plans for the city's modernisation which included battery-operated cars as modes of public transport, door-to-door garbage collection and a "Palace on Wheels" train running from Delhi to Varanasi via Ayodhya and Prayag (Allahabad).
The Prime Minister also said that he wants the entire sprawling campus of Benares Hindu University to be converted into a Wi-Fi zone and to ensure that every school of Varanasi had separate toilets for boys and girls besides drinking water.
He also said that he wished to transform the ghats of Varanasi into a major tourist attraction with the help of cleanliness and state-of-the art illumination technology.
Addressing party workers, he had denounced coalition politics by blaming "fractured verdicts" for lowering the image of the country and asserting that India had begun to get its due on the international stage ever since his party had come to power with a "complete majority".
"Things like lowering of diesel and petrol prices and government officials reporting for duty on time could have happened earlier. But it took a strong government to make these things a reality," Modi said.
Modi said his government was sensitive to the people's needs and hence his party was blessed with victory in Assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra, states where the BJP had snapped ties with allies just ahead of elections.
He expressed confidence that the party will emerge victorious in poll-bound Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir as well.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister had adopted a village under Saansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana and came down heavily on the practice of female foeticide.
Stressing on the need for "greater self reliance", he had said that villagers should give up the notion that the government is the doer while people were only beneficiaries.
Inaugurating the Trade Facilitation Centre and Crafts Museum, the Prime Minister pitched for giving a boost to the textile sector "which is second only to agriculture in terms of the number of people involved" and announced a package of Rs 2375 crore to revive 16 district cooperative banks of eastern UP which were closed down recently.
Encouraging use of Khadi, Modi said on more than one occasion he was delighted to learn that ever since he gave a call on Gandhi Jayanti exhorting people to buy "at least one Khadi item, however, small it may be" there has been "an 125 per cent increase in the consumption" of the hand-spun fabric.