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Arvind Kejriwal to file nomination from Varanasi today

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Varanasi – Aam Aadmi Party caps are being briskly distributed and party workers have begun to gather amid much slogan shouting as Varanasi preps for Arvind Kejriwal to file his nomination papers this morning.

The AAP chief has come to the ancient temple town in Uttar Pradesh to take on Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, in what is pegged as the contest of this election season.

Mr Kejriwal’s right hand man Manish Sisodia said this morning, “We do not indulge in a money or muscle campaign. Arvind’s strength is that he can go to one lakh houses in Benares. If Modi has the capacity, let him go to one lakh homes in Benares. It will be evident how much strength he has.”

In the weeks since he declared that he would make another attempt at playing giant slayer, Mr Kejriwal, 45, has tried to replicate all that he did right to post a spectacular performance in his party’s first ever election – the Delhi Assembly polls – in December last year.

He has held scores of road shows and corner meetings across Varanasi in contact programmes designed to connect with the electorate. Such outreach programmes had helped Mr Kejriwal defeat Sheila Dikshit, who was chief minister for 15 years, by a wide margin in her New Delhi Assembly constituency.

Hundreds of AAP volunteers are going door-to-door in Varanasi to counter an aggressive campaign by the BJP.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi had won the Varanasi seat after defeating the BSP’s Mukhtar Ansari, who is in jail in a murder case, by a slim margin of 17,000 votes.

Mr Ansari, who now heads the Quami Ekta Dal and is known to have a strong support base among the about 1.5 lakh Muslim voters in Varanasi, withdrew from the contest last week “to avoid division of secular votes”.

The Congress has fielded Ajay Rai, a local MLA. The Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and even Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress have fielded candidates in Varanasi, which will vote on May 12.

Mr Modi will file his nomination papers here tomorrow.

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