At 6 pm Arvind Kejriwal is addressing a crowd in Rohaniya bazaar on the outskirts of the city. He wears a white turban to beat the heat as his roadshow that began at 7 am has covered 17 villages so far.
In urban areas, Kejriwal justifies his decision to quit as the Delhi CM. “Look at Lal Bahadur Shastriji — he was the railway minister. There was one accident and he resigned. He believed in politics of principles. I too want to do the same,” he says.
According to him Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi are “joint candidates of the BJP and Congress” in Amethi and Varanasi, to keep the AAP out of power.
“If they (the BJP) are against Rahul they should have supported Kumar Vishwas (AAP candidate from Amethi), but four days to go they announced candidature of Smriti Irani. Her job is to cut Vishwas’s votes and make Rahul win… If they are against Modi (in Varanasi) then they should support me, why did they nominate Ajay Rai? Now Rai has got support from Mukhtar Ansari (BSP) to weaken me,” he says.
He ends his 20-minute address singing the party anthem “Insaanka insaan se ho bhaichara, yahi paigam hamara,” in a sore voice.
Congress candidate Ajay Rai, on the other hand, is a known local strongman. His discomfiture seems to have grown with the Congress’s pact with BSP’s Mukhtar Ansari, who is in jail for the alleged murder of his elder brother Awdhesh Rai in 1994 and a former BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai in 2005.
The Bhumihars, a community to which Rai belongs, are said to be unhappy with the Ansari alliance. Meanwhile, the BJP, has brought its ex-MLA Alka Rai, widow of Krishnanand Rai, into campaign spotlight. To win over Kurmis, the BJP has also sealed a pre-poll alliance with Anupriya Patel, Apna Dal MLA from Rohaniya.
Replying to questions on the reported Ansari “baggage” Ajai Rai told The Indian Express, “My case against him (Ansari) is in the court. There might have been an impact in public if I had an alliance or a compromise with him at a personal level.”
Riding pillion on a bike in Hathi Gaharpur (Sevapuri tehsil), Rai stops to pray at a dargah, a Shiva temple and even connects with Digambar Jains. His supporters shout slogans “Modi to Gujarat rahega, Ajay Rai yahan rahega” while Rai speaks little, greeting villagers with folded hands. Rejecting claims of Modi replicating the Sabarmati river front on the Ganga, he says, “This will be a flop… These hundreds of year old Banaras ghats cannot become a Juhu-Chowpatty.”
On the other hand, the AAP’s heavily protected cavalcade moves through the villages of Lathia, Hardatpur, Misirpur, where Kejriwal gives speeches from his open jeep.
As children run around in Lathia village screaming “Ab ki baar, Modi Sarkar”, the AAP supporters counter saying, “Ab ki baar, Jhaadu Sarkar.”
Meanwhile, the BJP campaign is loaded with merchandise like Modi T-shirts, masks, caps, stickers, posters and so on. A group of BJP workers from Chhattisgarh walk through the lanes leading to Kashi Vishwanath temple saying “Kamal ka phool, Mat bhool (Don’t forget the lotus)”. The saffron cap is seen on the heads of most passers by in this town.
A group of BJP workers distributing handouts at Babatpur village are confronted by an 80-year-old woman Rukmina Devi. “We have no sugar in our house today, will you send some?” asks Rukmina Devi, who along with her widowed daughter-in-law, sells vegetables for a living.
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