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Varanasi debut for Modi

New Delhi, March 15: Narendra Modi will contest his first Lok Sabha election from Varanasi, one of the most prestigious seats in Uttar Pradesh that had for years yearned for a status equal to that of Amethi, Rae Bareli or Lucknow.

The BJP’s principal election strategist, Arun Jaitley, so far ensconced in the Rajya Sabha, will make his Lok Sabha poll debut from Amritsar. Sitting Varanasi MP Murli Manohar Joshi will relocate to Kanpur.

Modi’s nomination is expected to influence 32 seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh and 12 to 14 in west Bihar, BJP sources said.

Hours before his name was announced close to midnight, Varanasi had burst into a riot of celebrations, residents promising TV cameras a brighter Holi this year.

Party president Rajnath Singh moves from Ghaziabad to Lucknow, the former constituency of Atal Bihari Vajpayee whose legacy he will be hoping to gain from.

L.K. Advani may be fielded from Gandhinagar again when the nominations for Gujarat’s 26 seats are finalised.

Modi was said to have been keen on his friend Jaitley venturing into a direct election. Having Jaitley by his side can only help Modi consolidate his position in the BJP’s parliamentary apparatus. So far, the BJP’s Lok Sabha wing has been dominated by the Sushma Swaraj-Advani duo.

Besides, Jaitley’s prospective entry into the Lok Sabha may be part of a back-up plan in case a shortfall in numbers jeopardises Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions.

In that scenario, the BJP fears a joust between multiple claimants — notably Sushma, who is busy projecting herself on social media.

Shatrughan Sinha will contest from his old seat, Patna Sahib, having resisted moves to relocate him. Uma Bharti has got Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh despite seeking a seat in home state Madhya Pradesh. Former BJP president Nitin Gadkari is contesting from Nagpur.

Varun Gandhi shifts to Sultanpur from Pilibhit, where his mother Maneka will return from Aonla.

Among the warhorses, Kalyan Singh has given up his Etah seat for son Rajveer, citing age and health.

Actress Kirron Kher will take on Congress’s Pawan Bansal and the Aam Aadmi Party’s Gul Panag from Chandigarh.

Meenakshi Lekhi, lawyer and feisty spokesperson, will take on the Congress’s Ajay Maken from the New Delhi seat. Harsh Vardhan, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in the last Assembly polls, is contesting from Chandni Chowk, home to a large population of fellow Banias.