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'Our aim is to give a devastating blow to both Modi and Rahul'

March 25, 2014 21:42 IST

'Our aim is to give a devastating blow to both Modi and Rahul'

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Sharat Pradhan in Varanasi

"This is not like any other election, nor is it just a local election. Varanasi is going to create history that will change the political destiny of the country,” AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, who announced his decision to contest against Narendra Modi in Varanasi, told a rally following a referendum. Sharat Pradhan reports.

A thunderous applause followed by a reverberating “Yes” echoed at the crowded Benia Bagh grounds in Varanasi on Tuesday evening, as Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal sought the people’s stamp on his decision to throw a challenge to Bhartiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi from this historic constituency.

The unconventional politician in Kejriwal responded with a smile while excitement writ large on the faces of his colleagues and supporters who had converged in Varanasi from different parts of Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi.

The announcement came in a characteristic Kejriwal style of seeking referendum on all key issues. And even though he had always sworn to fight Modi if the latter chose to seek a contest outside his home state, Gujarat, getting a vocal mandate of cheering crowds was surely a huge morale booster for his entire bandwagon.

After all not many present at the rally had imagined that the first ever rally of a lesser known AAP in the country’s Hindu cultural capital would draw such a crowd, who responded with cheers to Kejriwal’s appeal for giving him a single rupee’s contribution.

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal addressing AAP supporters at a rally in Varanasi on Tuesday
Photographs: Sandeep Pal

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'I am ready to take the challenge from here; but I do not have money'

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“I am ready to take the challenge from here; but I do not have money. Therefore, I would appeal to everyone to give me one rupee as their contribution to this cause”, he said.

The presence of Muslims in a fairly large number was yet another encouraging sign for Kejriwal, who seemed to have succeeded in impressing upon a good chunk of the minorities that he alone was waging a serious and selfless war against one who is seen as “villain” of the 2002 Gujarat carnage.

Sure enough, that also prompted him as well as other key AAP speakers to pause no sooner than the call of the evening ‘azaan’ was heard coming from the nearby mosques.

The party’s anthem -- “Insaan ka insaan se ho bhaichara; yahi paigham hamara” (an adaptation from Dilip Kumar’s famous Bollywood classic ‘Paigham’) -- also came in handy to further amplify and ratify his message.

Kejriwal’s emphasis was on making the electorate realise that it was no routine election in Varanasi. “This is not like any other election, nor it is just a local election. Varanasi is going to create history that will change the political destiny of the country”, he told the gathering.

Besides blasting the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government which he described as the fountainhead of corruption, he also trained his guns at Rahul Gandhi.

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Image: Supporters cheer for Arvind Kejriwal during AAP's rally in Varanasi on Tuesday
Photographs: Sandeep Pal

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'Modi a puppet in the hands of Ambanis and Adanis'

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“Our goal is to give a devastating blow to both Modi and Rahul in their respective constituencies -- Varanasi and Amethi”, he declared, while adding, “My colleague Kumar Vishwas is already giving Rahul a run for his money in Amethi because the defeat of these two leaders will symbolise the end of corrupt politics in this country.”

Terming BJP and Congress as two sides of the same coin on issues like promoting crony capitalism or allowing their favourite capitalists to hold the nation to ransom, Kejriwal charged Modi to be as much a puppet in the hands of “Ambanis and Adanis” as the Congress. He pointedly blamed the Ambanis for the proposed hike in gas prices in the country.

Raising the pitch over stashing of black money by affluent Indians in Swiss banks, he threw the gauntlet at Modi by asking him, “If you are really honest about bringing back such untold wealth of our country from foreign banks, then why don’t you start with the Ambanis, whose bank account numbers I am ready to share with you in public.” And in the next sentence he spelt out the numbers.

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Image: AAP leaders at the rally in Varanasi
Photographs: Sandeep Pal

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'Remember if you vote for Modi then be prepared to lose your land to big industry'

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He also made it a point to draw everyone’s attention to the vandalism resorted to by members of the saffron brigade who, besides raising cries of “Arvind Kejriwal murdabaad” also greeted him with black ink that was flung at him earlier during the day while he was on a road-show in Varanasi.

“Have the BJP activists ever thrown ink on Rahul Gandhi or other political leaders?” asked Kejriwal, in an obvious bid to buttress his earlier allegation of “connivance between the two parties”.

In an indirect appeal to the farming community, Kejriwal sought to issue an alert by pointing out, “Remember if you vote for Modi then be prepared to lose your land to big industry to whom your land will be forcibly transferred for a song.”

He claimed, “As many as 5,278 farmers in Gujarat were compelled to commit suicide on account of such transfer of their land to Modi’s favourite capitalists.”

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders attend a road show in Varanasi earlier on Tuesday
Photographs: Sandeep Pal

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Kejriwal wows Varanasi

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He also sought to warn retailers, “Mind you, if Modi were to be elected to become prime minister, then FDI will be promptly brought into India’s retail business, sending many to wilderness”.

While emphasising on larger national issues, Kejriwal also made it a point not to ignore local issues like pollution of the Ganga, pathetic infrastructure of the city and the perennial filth and squalor that leaves the oldest heritage city stinking.

 


Image: Kejriwal greets supporters after visiting the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi
Photographs: Sandeep Pal

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