Will caste-based outfit aid Modi win in Varanasi?

Will caste-based outfit aid Modi win in Varanasi?

In an apparent bid to ‘make it easy’ for its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who is contesting elections from Varanasi, the BJP, which has denied any seat in UP to its ally Shiv Sena, could strike an alliance with a caste-based outfit that has a sizeable votebank in the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency.

The Apna Dal, an outfit that thrives on the support of ‘kurmis’, who are mainly concentrated in a few eastern UP districts, including Varanasi, has held talks with the BJP leadership for a possible alliance.

There are an estimated two lakh ‘kurmi’ voters in the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency alone and their support to Modi could prove to be a match-winner.

Earlier, the Apna Dal was not enthusiastic about the tie-up, but the candidature of Modi changed the scene completely. Now, the outfit, realising that the BJP is eager for an alliance, is driving a hard bargain. It has demanded three seats from the BJP in exchange for its support to the party in Varanasi and elsewhere.

“Apna Dal wants Phulpur, Mirzapur and Pratapgarh Lok Sabha seats. The local workers are against any kind of understanding,” said a senior state BJP leader.

What has put the BJP in a quandary is that Apna Dal's lone legislator and party general secretary Anupriya Patel had reportedly declared that she would contest the LS polls from Varanasi if alliance talks with the BJP failed.

Incidentally, Patel is an MLA from the Rohaniya Assembly seat, which is part of the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency.

State BJP chief Luxmi Kant Bajpai admitted that a proposal for an alliance with Apna Dal had been sent to the central leadership.

“Though it is too late for any kind of understanding, it is up to the central leaders to take a decision in this regard,” Bajpai said.

State leaders said that the central leadership may ultimately accede to Apna Dal's demand in view of its support base in Varanasi.

The Apna Dal had contested 76 assembly seats in the 2012 UP assembly polls but could win only one seat. It had, however, secured around five per cent votes.
The outfit has a support base in Allahabad, Kaushambi, Robertsganj and some other seats in the eastern UP region.

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