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‘Pauper’ vs chopper in Varanasi

Varanasi, April 23: Arvind Kejriwal filed his nomination papers today, Narendra Modi will do so tomorrow. Varanasi votes in the last phase on May 12 but this pilgrim city has already been hurled in the vortex of one of the most polarised elections.

Every tea, paan, lassi shop and every nook and corner appears to be sizzling under the election heat. Braving the merciless sun, the Banarsis are battling it out. The battle lines of the heated debates and discussions have been clearly drawn — for and against Narendra Modi. There is no third alternative.

“Aaj to kuch nahi hai. Aslee show to kal hoga (Today it is nothing. The real show will take place tomorrow),” murmured Ashok Rastogi, a local resident, referring to Modi’s plans to arrive here to file his nomination papers tomorrow as he watched Arvind Kejriwal’s show today.

Kejriwal and his AAP volunteers put up a good show but residents feel it would be dwarfed by Modi’s on Thursday.

Kejriwal and his AAP volunteers, more than half of them drawn from Delhi and other parts of the country, gathered at the city’s Lahurabir square.

Kejriwal garlanded the statues of Sardar Patel and Chandrasekhar Azad, released white pigeons and addressed the crowd before he proceeded in an open jeep to file his nomination papers in the collectorate, 4km ahead, flanked by his parents.

“I have just Rs 500 in my pocket. I’m a fakkad (pauper) aam aadmi. I am fighting the election on your support,” Kejriwal said before proceeding to criticise Modi for being a “helicopter” politician.

“I am going in an old and rugged jeep to file my papers. But Modi, I have heard, is coming in a helicopter. Now people of Kashi have to choose what kind of democracy they want – the helicopter type or the one who remains with the people in villages and alleys,” Kejriwal said, cheered on by his supporters.

Kejriwal is adopting the same David-vs-Goliath tactics that clicked in metropolis Delhi. But in the heartland, electoral battles are fought on different parameters.

“Aadmi to imandar lagta hai. Lekin imandari se kya hota hai. Taqat bhi to chahiye. Modi se takkar lene ka taqat nahi hai (He seems to an honest person. But of what good is honesty? You also need strength. He does not have the strength to take on Modi),” declared Amarendra Singh, listening to Kejriwal from a distance.

Modi is scheduled to land at Varanasi airport tomorrow morning and then take a chopper to the grounds of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). He will garland the statue of freedom fighter and founder of the university, Madan Mohan Malviya.

From BHU, he will air-lift again and land in the ground of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth in the heart of the holy city. Modi will proceed to garland the statue of Saradar Patel at Maldahiya square (Kejriwal was here today) and then lead a road show through the city to file his nomination papers.

Varansi has been put on high alert in view of Modi’s arrival. All schools in and around the area would remain closed on Thursday. Gujarat police are here to monitor the security arrangements in coordination with local administration.

“Kashi me lagta hai yudh ho raha hai (A battle has broken out in Varanasi, it seems),” said Praveen Jaiswal, who runs a sweet shop at the Lahurabir square.

“Koi ladai nahi hai. Modi paanch lakh vote se jitega (There is no fight. Modi will win by 5 lakh votes),” interjected Ashok Rastogi, adding that Varanasi is a holy city and nobody can beat the BJP here.

Aggressive Modi fans seem to be prowling in the city. They gathered at Lahurabir before Kejriwal arrived and remained there after he left, chanting “Modi, Modi… Kejriwal bhagoda hai (Kejriwal is a quitter)”