Around the time everyone in Varanasi seemed occupied with a series of roadshows on the last day of campaigning, the Bharatiya Janata Party began a frenzied last-minute effort on Saturday to secure the most crucial of its potential voters. The Brahmin community, which could make or mar BJP candidate Narendra Modi’s bid to represent the holy town in the Lok Sabha, was being wooed frantically by pressing into service an otherwise-defunct caste organisation and by deploying BJP leaders who till been relegated to the margins.

The flamboyant display of support for Modi by the Akhil Bharatiya Brahmin Mahasabha and the sudden appearance in Varanasi of Murli Manohar Joshi and Kesari Nath Tripathi, the BJP’s two sulking Brahmin leader, on Saturday made a few things very clear. One was the realisation in the saffron party that it could no longer take the support of Brahmins for granted. The other was the desire of the BJP’s Brahmin leaders to appear to be helping the party’s prime ministerial candidate in this crucial electoral battle.

The Akhil Bharatiya Brahmin Mahasabha is an almost dormant organisation with little clout in Varanasi. Yet it was prevailed upon to organise a motorcycle procession on Saturday morning, just when the city was being swamped by Rahul Gandhi’s roadshow. “It was a procession of around one thousand Brahmin youth,” the Mahasabha’s Varanasi president, Sunil Kumar Mishra, told over phone. “It started at Bhathigaon village and culminated at Phuloria in Varanasi’s cantonment area, where the gathering was addressed by BJP leader Ashok Mishra.”

On Sunday, the Mahasabha started sending SMSes addressed “to Brahmin voters” of Varanasi advising them to vote for Modi. “There are about 2.5 lakh Brahmin electorates in this constituency, and almost 90% of them will vote for Modi,” Mishra asserted.

That claim notwithstanding, chatter about a section of Brahmins moving away from the BJP in Uttar Pradesh is not unfounded. UP’s Brahmins, who make up roughly 10% of the electorate and have significant numbers in nearly one-fourth of the state’s Lok Sabha constituencies, are said to be upset with the BJP. In normal circumstances, talk of a Modi wave should have enthused them. But the marginalisation of the party’s senior Brahmin leaders – Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalraj Mishra and Kesari Nath Tripathi – and the pre-eminence in the state of Thakur leader Rajnath Singh are said to have irked the community. While Joshi was forced to move from his seat of Varanasi and contest in Kanpur, Mishra was pushed to distant Deoria and Tripathi’s request to contest from Allahabad was denied altogether.

At several places in the state, the anger is said to have led a section of Brahmins to vote against the BJP candidates, particularly in constituencies where the saffron nominees do not belong to their own caste. According to party officials, senior leaders of the Sangh Parivar have been watching this unrest among Brahmins anxiously and the issue was discussed when Joshi met Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat at Nagpur on Wednesday.

Party insiders surmise that it was partly because of this meeting with Bhagwat that Joshi returned to his former constituency late on Friday and swung into action the very next day. “On Saturday, Joshiji met villagers and party workers in Rohinia area of the constituency, and on Sunday he stayed at his residence at Varanasi and kept meeting party workers the whole day,” Joshi’s private secretary Rajiv Belwal said.

Joshi, who was forced to give up his seat in Varanasi so that Modi could run from it, had not visited the town until then. Polling in his new constituency of Kanpur took place on April 30, so he didn’t have anything to do there.  Joshi’s quiet appearance in Varanasi at the fag end of the campaign, and that too after meeting the RSS chief at Nagpur, was noted by his partymen with interest.