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Non-BJP parties to support Kejriwal or Ansari against Modi in Varanasi
Arvind Kejriwal's decision to contest against BJP’s formidable Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh seems to gain political prominence, provided all non-BJP political parties rally around him. Though, many political observers feel that it is an attempt to occupy large space in the media by challenging the most popular leader in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, contesting against Narendra Modi, Kejriwal is reportedly attempting to make this fight a serious one.

Kejriwal has grabbed the right opportunity to dominate the media space, which he has been accusing Narendra Modi of buying out. The opportunity has been provided by Modi himself after he was declared the BJP's candidate for Varanasi in the upcoming election.

 “The party has asked me to fight against Modi. I’m not here to win or lose. I will go to Varansi on 23 March and hold a rally. If people ask me to fight, I’ll fight,” Kejriwal said. The influential community of Pandas and priests in the holy city are jubilant at Modi’s nomination and are confident that Modi will win with a big margin. While BJP state spokesman Vijay Pathak says Modi will register an emphatic record win from Varanasi, the entry of Arvind Kejriwal into the fray has made the contest interesting.

At the moment, Kailash Chaurasiya, MLA from Mirzapur, is the Samajwadi Party candidate from Varanasi, while Vijay Jaiswal is the BSP candidate. However, the most formidable candidate is Mukhtar Ansari, now from the Qaumi Ekta Dal. The Congress has not yet officially announced its candidate but the name of Ajay Rai, who stood third in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, has been doing the rounds.

But, with the emergence of Kejriwal, it is learnt that the non-BJP parties may arrive at an unofficial understanding to ensure that only one candidate – be it Kejriwal or any other – takes on Modi.  The attempt now would be to take advantage of reverse polarization and avoid division of anti-BJP votes. It is already rumoured that the Samajwadi Party (SP) might support Ansari as per this understanding.

Earlier, Ansari had sought a ticket from the SP to contest from Varanasi but the party leadership had turned it down. A rivalry between the Congress’ Rai and Ansari already exists and the latter can’t expect any support from the Congress with Rai as its candidate. It could mean the Congress may field a less significant candidate from the seat under this understanding.

However, Ajay Rai is also seen as a formidable candidate, who is plotting to take advantage from divisions among BJP cadre against Narendra Modi candidature. The way by which former BJP President Dr. Murali Manohar Joshi was asked to give way for Modi to contest from here is said to be not taken easy by powerful sections of the party.

Dr Joshi reportedly expressed his anguish at the party’s Election Committee meeting stating that he was pained only to know from the media that Narendra Modi wants to contest from Varanasi, ignoring his presence being elected in the last two elections.

The AAP has a district unit in Varanasi but it is not very active since students of  Benaras Hindu University (BHU), IIT and local medical college have not been enthusiastic about it. Narendra Modi is seen more popular among students, youth and women in this area.

The Varanasi electorate comprises about 77 per cent Hindus and 18 per cent Muslims. In that case, it could become a contest among Modi, Kejriwal and Ansari. In adjoining Bihar, former chief minister Lalu Prasad has been quick to dismiss suggestions that Modi’s candidature from Varanasi will have any impact in Bihar.

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