Will the Varanasi Battle Decide Outcome of LS Polls?
The holy city on the banks of the Ganges is all set to be the cynosure of all eyes, with Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal making his intentions clear that defeating Modi from Varanasi is his main target. The former Delhi Chief Minister said the move was not a ‘symbolic gesture’ but was aimed at defeating the BJP prime ministerial candidate.
Varanasi has always been BJP’s stronghold and the party will be hoping that Modi’s presence in the region will bolster their chances in the nearby constituencies/states. Uttar Pradesh (80), Bihar (40), Jharkhand (14) together constitute 134 seats, which is sure to play a pivotal role for BJP to achieve its 272+ target in the coming LS polls. Earlier, Rajnath Singh had said Modi’s influence and his ability to galvanise the cadre in the region will be one of the key factors for BJP in the polls.
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Another possible contestant is Mukhtar Ansari from Quami Ekta Dal. In 2009, the leader gave Murli Manohar Joshi a scare by finishing second, securing 1,85,882 votes, roughly 28% of the total. If Ansari manages to polarise Muslims in his favour, it will definitely eat into Modi’s votes. Quami Ekta Dal has made it clear that it will support any party/candidate who is strong enough to rival Modi.
90 kms above Varanasi, lies Azamgarh (see map), a seat that will see Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh contesting in the LS polls, a clear sign that BJP has rattled the existing political order in the state. Azamgarh, apart from its proximity to Varanasi, also supported SP in last Assembly elections in 2012, helping the party win most of the seats in the district. The district has a sizeable number of Muslim and Yadav population. Will SP, with its perceived pro-Muslim image, by contesting in the neighborhood constituency be able to control the apparent ‘Modi wave’ in the state?
Incidentally, both Mulayam and Modi are expected to contest in two constituencies. Apart from Azamgarh, the SP supremo will contest from Mainpuri, which is a SP stronghold and the party is expected to win it. Modi is expected to contest from his home turf Vadodara as well.
Now, all eyes are on Congress, which is yet to reveal its candidate for the constituency.