Modi's Varanasi play forces rivals to rethink plans

Modi's Varanasi play forces rivals to rethink plans

The BJP’s decision to field Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi appears to have changed political equations in eastern Uttar Pradesh, as the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress have all begun to rethink their strategy for this region.

According to sources in these parties, they are likely to drop a few candidates and bring in fresh faces, besides exploring alliances with smaller outfits to “avoid division of anti-Modi votes”. SP leaders said that the chances of Mulayam Singh Yadav contesting from Azamgarh, another important seat in the eastern region, have now increased manifold. “We need someone to counter Modi effectively in the eastern belt,” a senior SP leader told Deccan Herald.

Modi’s candidature from Varanasi might “impact” their poll calculations, said another SP leader. “Eastern UP has been our strength and BJP’s weak spot...BJP will like to improve its position in the region and that can happen only at the expense of the SP,” he explained.

The SP leaders also said that they would explore the possibilities of tying up with some smaller outfits to “check” Modi. Besides, it could also change its nominees in Ghosi, Salempur, Varanasi, Mirzapur and some other seats in the region.

Political observers said the continuous exchange of barbs between Mulayam and Modi reflected their desire to confine the contest in UP to themselves. From this it also emerges that the SP will not side with a BJP-led alliance in a post poll scenario.

The BSP was also reportedly rethinking its plans in eastern UP. “There is an apprehension that the Brahmin voters could shift to BJP after Modi’s arrival in Varanasi,” said a BSP leader.  The Mayawati-led BSP heavily banks on its Brahmin-Dalit formula for electoral success. It has fielded 23 Brahmin candidates in UP’s 80 LS seats. The BSP also hopes that Modi’s arrival on the electoral scene in UP will push the Muslim votes toward them.

“Muslims are angry with SP because of the recurring communal riots...this time the community will support us,” said BSP state unit chief Ram Achal Rajbhar. He refused to attach much importance to Aam Admi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal. “Kejriwal will not have any impact on Varanasi voters,” he said.

The Congress has also been forced to rework its strategy. Sources in the party said it might bring in a new face against Modi. Earlier the party had to make a choice between Rajesh Mishra and Ajay Rai, both of whom are local candidates.

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