AAP vs BJP in Varanasi

In the wake of BJP’s announcement of its Lok Sabha candidates – a record 23 per cent of whom have criminal cases against them – the AAP is readying to take on the Modi juggernaut

Souzeina S Mushtaq Delhi 

While the BJP has put an end to all speculations and announced the candidature of Narendra Modi from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Arvind Kejriwal is likely to contest from the same seat. 

“We have to defeat Modi,” Kejriwal told a packed audience at Bangalore’s Freedom Park. “I will go to Varanasi on 23 March. We will have a rally in Varanasi. Whatever the people of Varanasi will say, that will be final. If the people of Varanasi decide to give me this responsibility, I will accept it wholeheartedly,” he announced. 

The BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate is replacing sitting MP and senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who will be contesting from Kanpur now.

Ravindra Jaiswal, a BJP MLA from Varanasi North, said elections in UP would witness the impact of Modi. “There are nearly 42 seats in eastern UP and western Bihar, which will come under the Modi spell now. People from western Bihar districts like Sasaram, Chapra, Mokamaetc and even districts in Madhya Pradesh that are close to Varanasi like Rewa, Satna and Binaare, are closely linked to the city,” he told the media. 

However, Anshul Srivastava of the AAP, eastern UP, believes that people are flocking to the party in huge numbers. “We added 50,000 new members when we started an enrollment drive some weeks back. We already have nearly 1.10 lakh active members in Varanasi. Students and minorities are also attracted to us. The city of Varanasi will not accept Modi,” he said. 

The BJP has announced 204 candidates so far. According to activist group Association for Democratic Reforms, 37% of the 62 BJP candidates have criminal cases against them, and 23% face serious criminal cases. No convictions have been handed down in the cases, yet, and the charges remain unproven. 

The party is also fielding the tainted former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, who lost his chief ministership after he was named in investigations into the illegal mining controversy in the state. The BJP also inducted B Sriramulu of the BSR Congress into the party, a move that was criticized by Sushma Swaraj. 

Earlier in the day, the AAP announced its seventh list of candidates. With this list, the Aam Aadmi Part (AAP) has announced 268 candidates so far. The seventh list features 26 candidates who will contest from five seats in Bihar, one seat each in Manipur, Mizoram, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tripura, Maharashtra and Sikkim, and eight seats from Tamil Nadu, and four from Uttar Pradesh. 

The list includes Advocate Himmat Singh Shergill, who is contesting from Anandpur constituency in Punjab. Human Rights activist Pon Chandran, who is also a part of the ‘People’s Movement Against Genocide in Sri Lanka’ is contesting from Coimbatore constituency in Tamil Nadu. Dr SP Udayakumar of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) is contesting from Kanniyakumari in Tamil Nadu on an AAP ticket. Reeta Singh Jhatav, former General Secretary City, Congress Committee, is contesting from Shahjahanpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh.