Over 16 lakh voters will decide the winner of the battle for Varanasi, the most watched constituency in this Lok Sabha election, under the watchful eyes of paramilitary forces and the Uttar Pradesh police on Monday. The town went about its business on Saturday but some political hotspots like the Lanka area, where the prestigious Banaras Hindu University is located, saw thin crowds.

The administration has banned hotels from admitting new boarders till polling day. Many tourists left the town two days prior to polling on instructions from the administration and the police, who conducted searches at hotels, guesthouses and dharmashalas for outsiders.

Seated next to a poster of Narendra Modi at his Bengal-style guesthouse near the Kedar Ghat, Aakash Dutta (name changed) said: “Kejriwal has turned into a Muslim candidate. The Miyans have issued fatwa to support him. It’s all BJP you see.” In Madanpura, Mohammed Sualeh, a weaver, was sipping tea at a small stall when this correspondent met him. “It’s not exactly a fatwa,” said Mr. Sualeh. “But word was indeed spread that we should vote for Kejriwal as he was in the position to win. It has nothing to do with the Maulanas. If the vote of our community falls behind him, he could cause an upset and defeat Modi. But some will still vote for Congress.”