A high-voltage electoral contest is on the cards with Arvind Kejriwal of the upstart Aam Admi Party (Common Man’s Party) likely to run against Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi for a seat to India’s lower house of parliament.
Kejriwal announced his intention to run against Modi, hours after the BJP announced that its prime ministerial nominee would contest from Varanasi.
Kejriwal told a rally in the southern city of Bangalore that while his party wanted him to contest against Modi and that he was ready, he would decide only after a rally in Varanasi on March 23, when he would ask for the opinion of the local residents.
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“Whatever people of Varanasi will say that will be final. If people of Varanasi decide to give me this responsibility, I will accept it wholeheartedly," Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal’s AAP is pitted against both the ruling Congress and the BJP and is running on an anti-corruption plank. The party was born out of an anti-graft campaign that swept the nation two years ago. It made a stunning electoral debut in Delhi last December, winning 28 of 60 provincial assembly seats.
It is hoping to repeat its success at the national level and has announced plans to contest more than 300 seats.
Meanwhile, analysts said Modi’s choice of Varanasi as his constituency symbolised his credentials as a Hindu nationalist, though he is projecting himself in the campaign as a man committed to development in an impoverished country. He is considered to be pro-business.
Modi, the chief minister of western Gujarat state, is the current favourite to be the next prime minister with opinion polls giving him massive leads over his other rivals. He, however, faces accusations of failing to stop anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people died.
Modi has denied any wrongdoing, and investigators have cleared him of any direct involvement in the violence.
Modi is also expected to contest from a parliamentary voting district in his home state of Gujarat.
Under Indian election laws, a person can contest from more than one constituency. But Modi has to choose one seat in Parliament after the election results are announced.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies