You seem confident of giving a tough fight to Narendra Modi. What is your campaign strategy?
My campaign is without much mathematics. I am dharti putra of Kashi — son of its soil — who has fought for the people. I would remain with them irrespective of whether I win or lose. But people like Modi and Kejriwal would certainly leave Varanasi. Varanasi is not just any constituency, it is the place which has an over 1,000-year-old history and culture, which no outsider can understand in just 20 days of campaigning. I have done politics here for 20 years. I was here before the start of each campaign and would remain here even after this election ends, but these leaders would be visitors for only a few days, so how can the people of Kashi trust them?
Soon after you were named the Congress candidate, you met Priyanka Gandhi. Would she campaign for you as well?
I met Priyanka ji and she told me she is with me in my fight. She gave me her contact number and told me all possible help would be given. She also told me the entire family is with me. I also requested her to visit the constituency once; she said she would think about it. I have also requested Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to visit. It is up to them to decide.
You have been a three-time BJP MLA and were a prominent BJP leader in Varanasi till 2009, when you left over the candidature of Murli Manohar Joshi. Would that be a factor when you now ask for votes for the Congress?
First of all, I have worked for and with the people of Varanasi, so they relate with me beyond caste or any other lines. After I lost the 2009 Lok Sabha election, I again contested Assembly by-elections as an Independent and people voted for me. The same was the case in 2012, when I contested as a Congress candidate. Secondly, there are lot of good people who have been suppressed in the BJP in order to make place for Modi. I am confident all of them will support me.
Who do you see as your main competitor in Varanasi? What is your take on Arvind Kejriwal contesting from the constituency?
My main contest is with Modi. Kejriwal is no competition for me because people of Varanasi are very sharp politically and it would be difficult for them to trust a leader like Kejriwal. How can they accept a leader who ran from Delhi in search of better pastures? How can people trust that he would not run from Varanasi also?
In the past, you have been booked under cases of attempt to murder, criminal intimidation and rioting. How would you defend yourself?
In a state like Uttar Pradesh, where regional parties have been ruling for ages, one has to survive against all odds. All cases against me are politically motivated and I do not have to given any explanation because people of Varanasi are aware of my past and they know how regional parties put cases against leaders of other parties to suppress them.