Kejriwal banks on Muslim votes to rein in Modi

Kejriwal banks on Muslim votes to rein in Modi

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, who will challenge the BJP’s Narendra Modi in Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, could make attempts to ‘project’ himself as a ‘secular alternative’ as he tries to woo Muslim voters, who are in sizable numbers in the holy town, to corner the saffron strongman.

Muslims, who constitute around 2.50 lakh in Varanasi constituency, play a crucial role in determining the electoral outcome. A large number of them are from the traditional weaver community and are engaged in making the world famous ‘Benarasi sarees’.

AAP leaders said that one of the primary objectives behind Kejriwal's decision to challenge Modi from Varanasi was to defeat ‘communal forces’. “We do not indulge in the politics of religion but we are dead against communal elements,” AAP leader Rauf Kaifi told Deccan Herald. “So far every so called secular party has only exploited the Muslims for their vested interests...they had been treated as vote banks....we talk about progress....ours is inclusive politics,” Kaifi said.

The AAP would like to make sure that Muslims in Varanasi do not get divided among the ‘secular parties’ this time around.

“The young generation of the Muslims are progressive in their outlook...they want development and the AAP is committed to give them and every citizen just that,” the AAP leader went on to assert. Varanasi’s Muslims would ‘whole heartedly support Kejriwal’ said Kaifi, who quit his managerial position at a Delhi-based business group to join AAP.

AAP sources in Varanasi also echoed similar sentiments. The leaders plan to concentrate on Muslim voters along with others during the campaign.

The strategy assumes more significance after reports that Mukhtar Ansari, a mafia don turned politician, currently lodged in jail in connection with a murder case, was planning to contest from Varanasi. Ansari won 1.85 lakh votes in 2009 to finish second; 17,000 votes behind the BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi.

Incidentally, the venue for Kejriwal's scheduled rally in Varanasi on Tuesday was the historic Beniabagh ground which was situated in the midst of the Muslim locality. Modi had addressed his election rally at a venue, which was around 15 km from the town.

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