Indian Express

Poll process kicks off in Varanasi; Congress candidate Ajay Rai files nomination

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Rai is also eyeing to cash on his local stronghold in his Bhumihar community. (PTI) Rai is also eyeing to cash on his local stronghold in his Bhumihar community. (PTI)

The nomination process began here for the most keenly watched Lok Sabha elections, with Congress candidate Ajay Rai, who is pitted against BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal, filing his papers after offering liquor to Lord Kaal Bhairav as per local tradition.

Rai is fighting from Varanasi seat, which has over 16 lakh voters, against BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal, who are expected to file their nominations next week.

Besides Congress’ traditional support base, Rai is also eyeing to cash on his local stronghold in his Bhumihar community, which is considered to be very prominent here and even royal family of Banaras is from this community itself.

Fighting a tough fight, Rai is banking on his ‘local’ image and said that all others including Modi and Kejriwal were outsiders and like ‘Siberian birds’ who will go away after elections.

He also accused Modi of trying to polarise votes and termed Kejriwal as a ‘bhagoda’ for fleecing Delhi public by running away from governance there.

Rai, who has appealed to senior Congress leaders including Gandhi family members — Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi — was accompanied for his nomination by Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and party’s Ghaziabad candidate Raj Babbar. They addressed public at various places during their roadshow before filing nomination.

Rai prayed at local Kaal Bhairav mandir and offered liquor to God.

Kaal Bhairav is regarded by locals as ‘Kotwal of Kashi’ and its been an age-old tradition to offer liquor to the god as part of prayer to begin any new work.

He also visited various other local temples  and offered prayers at other religious places, besides offering flowers at statues of Mahatma Gandhi and other prominent leaders.

Kejriwal, who has been campaigning here since April 15, is expected to leave for Amethi tomorrow to campaign for his party colleague Kumar Vishwas who is fighting against Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and BJP’s Smirit Irani.

Kejriwal may return to Varanasi on April 22 and is expected to file his nomination on April 23.

Modi is also expected to come here on April 22 after which he would file nomination, although no date has been finalised so far.

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