Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal will file nomination on Wednesday for the high-profile electoral contest in this historic temple town in which the former Delhi Chief Minister will face stiff challenge from BJP’s Prime Ministerial nominee Narendra Modi.
Last month, Kejriwal had announced that he would contest from Varanasi Lok Sabha seat after BJP’s decision to field Modi from the city, considered one of the most prestigious constituencies in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh.
Kejriwal, who had led his fledging AAP to a spectacular victory in the Delhi Assembly polls in December last year, has been trying to replicate the successful Delhi campaign model here by holding scores of road shows and corner meetings across Varanasi.
Hundreds of AAP volunteers are also visiting door-to-door to garner support from people in this holy city where BJP has been running an aggressive campaign to consolidate its vote bank.
In 2009 Lok Sabha election, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi had won the seat defeating gangster-cum- politician Mukhtar Ansari by a margin of 17,000 votes.
Quami Ekta Dal’s Ansari, who is known to have a strong support base among Muslims, has decided not to contest against Modi from the seat “to avoid division of secular votes”.
The four-time MLA from Mau is currently lodged in Agra jail in BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai murder case. Congress has fielded Ajay Rai, a Varanasi local, who is an MLA from Pindra assembly constituency. Samajwadi Party candidate Kailash Chaurasiya is also a sitting MLA from nearby Mirzapur.
Both Rai and Chaurasiya have already filed their nominations. The entry of Modi and Kejriwal has escalated the political temperature in the battle turning it into one of the most keenly watched contests in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Exuding confidence of pulling off a surprise, the Aam Aadmi Party leader says people of Varanasi will stand behind him and defeat the BJP strongman while the saffron party feels Modi will not face any significant fight in the constituency.
The constituency has around 1.5 lakh Muslim voters and Kejriwal has been trying hard to woo the community. An AAP leader said Kejriwal will hold a road show before filing his nomination tomorrow.
Polling in Varanasi would be held in the last phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 12. Modi will file nomination on May 24, the last day. BSP has fielded Vijay Prakash Jaisawal while CPI(M) has given ticket to veteran party worker Heera Lal Yadav.
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has given ticket to Indira Tiwari.
The party is also expected to appoint 15 parliamentary secretaries.