Varanasi is set to become the mother of all battles in this Lok Sabha polls not only because Narendra Modi is locked in a contest with AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal and Congress’ Ajay Rai, but also for having a large number of parties and independents in the fray.
When the clock struck 3 pm on Thursday, the deadline for filing nominations for the Varanasi constituency, there were at least 77 candidates in the fray, the highest in Uttar Pradesh and way ahead of Rahul Gandhi's home borough of Amethi where 34 candidates are vying.
The Varanasi seat could even see voting using traditional ballot papers if there are more than 63 candidates as an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) can accommodate only 64 options, including the mandatory NOTA button. If ballot paper is used, then the result could be delayed.
“In case the number of contesting candidates goes beyond 64 in any constituency, EVMs cannot be used in such a constituency. The conventional method of voting by means of ballot box and ballot paper will have to be adopted in such a constituency,” the Election Commission website said.
The final picture will be clear on April 28, the last day for withdrawal of nominations.
The highest number of candidates in the first six phases – from April 7 to 24 – was in Chennai South constituency where there are 42 candidates followed by Hisar in Haryana with 41 and Chennai North with 40.
National and international attention is on Varanasi after Modi and Arvind Kejriwal decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections from this UP contituency. Of the 80 seats, 14 constituencies have 20 or more candidates in the fray. Raebareli, where Sonia Gandhi is contesting, has 17 candidates.
Thirty-eight parties, including SP and BSP, have fielded candidates and there are 39 independent candidates. One of the 76 nominees is a covering candidate for Modi, who will withdraw from the race once the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate’s nomination paper is accepted after scrutiny.
Varanasi has even attracted two candidates from down south. P N Sriramachandran, who claims to be the nephew of forest brigand Veerappan, and Johnson Thomas from Kozhikode are in the fray. Sriramachandran is also fighting against Rahul in Amethi. “Modi and Gandhi may be good persons but the policies of their parties are not good for the country,” he told Deccan Herald.
There are candidates from parties like Shoshit Samaj Dal, Sarva Samaj Kalyan Party, Nirmal India Party, Moulik Adhikar Party, Rashtriya Ambedkar Dal, Gandhi Ekta Party, Yuva Vikas Party, Bahujan Mukti Party, Sanatan Sanskriti Raksha Dal and All India Pichhada Jan Samaj Party, according to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Electoral Office website. Apart from the main players, parties like the Trinamool Congress and CPM have also fielded candidates here.
Interestingly, there are three ‘Narendras’ in the fray -- Narendra Nath Dubey Adig of the Jan Shakti Ekta Party, Narendra Bahadur Singh of Manav Kalyan Munch and Narendra, an independent.