Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is making concerted efforts to make inroads into voters from rural areas of Varanasi, namely Rohaniya and Sevapuri assembly segments, where the BJP has not done well in the last decade. In his first leg of his formal campaign in Varanasi, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said he will be holding interactive meetings in at least a dozen villages in these two segments over the next two days.
During his road show on March 26, following announcement of his candidature from Varanasi, Kejriwal said his thrust will on rural areas.
In his first “interactive session” on Tuesday, he said he will be visiting villages and holding meetings, and will be fielding questions.
Ramanand Rai, AAP spokesperson, said: “We wanted to reach out to those people, who have not been approached by the high profile leaders of other parties in the interiors. There is no doubt that we are getting support from people in the rural areas, across castes.”
During the 2012 assembly elections, the BJP stood sixth, polling only 9,811 votes from Sevapuri, where Surendra Patel of SP was the sitting MLA. In Rohaniya, the BJP stood a dismal fourth. “Even in 2009, Dr Murli Manohar got less support from rural pockets. In the absence of polarisation, he may not have sailed through,” a political expert said.
During the days of Kalyan Singh, BJP used to garner a large share of votes from Kurmis (part of the other backward classes) votes, including Patels, from the rural segments. They have a sizeable vote-share (2.5 lakh votes). “However, with the emergence of Apna Dal in the last few years and the likes of Kalyan Singh leaving the party, Patel votes have shifted from the BJP,” a political expert said.
The BJP, on the other hand, is confident that the tie-up with Apna Dal, whose national general secretary Anupriya Patel is the sitting MLA from Rohaniya, will help the party tide over this particular deficit in a keenly fought contest.
“The Patel voters have been with Apna Dal for some time now. With the tie-up, we should not have any problem in the rural segments,” said BJP spokesperson Ashok Pandey.
AAP sources said that they are trying to catch the downside of “so-called Modi wave”. “When you keep shouting Modi-Modi, there are many, who are not feeling comfortable or simply want to see him defeated. This is not happening only among Muslims. In our absence, the votes of those unhappy with the BJP for various reasons would have gone to parties like the SP, the BSP and the Congress. We are trying to get all of them with us,” an AAP leader said.
Political observers maintained AAP was essentially looking to tap into the non-core votes across various castes and religion. “They have also sought support of Muslims, who seem to be looking for options at present. They are then targeting the Valmikis in urban slums, who do not form the core vote of the BSP,” a political expert added.