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NEWS|Politics 
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The field has already gotten crowded in Varanasi, where the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is planning to harvest a second seat in the Lok Sabha.There are already three serious candidates apart from Modi Arvind Kejriwal of AAP, Kailash Chaurasia of Samajwadi Party, and Mukhtar Ansari, a jailbird and head of the Muslim-dominated Qaumi Ekta Party and one non-serious BSP candidate, Vijay Prakash Jaiswal, who is not given any chance in the fight.However, if the Congress manages to pull off a coup, the field will get sparser.This has acquired urgency with Sonia Gandhi meeting the Imam of Jama Masjid and making an appeal to the minorities to avoid splitting the so-called secular vote. Though this claim has drawn an uproar of protest over her return to votebank politics, it has to be seen in the context of AK Antonys recent call to political parties for a secular front to keep Modi out of power.The Economic Times suggests that the Congress party is in behind-the-scenes negotiations to get Ansari and Chaurasia to withdraw from Varanasi, leaving the field clear for a strong Congress nominee to take on Modi. Kejriwal, it is assumed, will not be willing to play ball, but he may not make too many waves in Varanasi, where he has failed to make an impact so far. With his Delhi base under threat, he wont return to Varanasi till after 10 April.So, if the Congress move succeeds, it will end up being a straight fight between Modi and its nominee, with Kejriwal largely playing the role of spoiler.Will a straight fight help or hinder Modis victory?Of Varanasis 16 lakh voters, three lakh Muslims can be ruled out of Modis corner. Their votes will go to the Congress, assuming the other players withdraw or are bought off.The battle will be for the Brahmin (two lakh), Vaishya (3.5 lakh), and Kurmi, Yadav, Bhumihar and Dalit votes each with around one lakh each.The Congress strategy, if it is to succeed in making it a more-or-less straight fight, will be to get at least two of the three major non-Muslim groups to vote for it. It will thus field either a Brahmin or Vaishya candidate but Kejriwal is in the latter category. Ajai Rai, who is said to have a strong base in the Brahmin and Bhumihar communities, looks like a more likely choice.If the Congress succeeds in fielding a combined candidate, Modi has a fight on his hands.However, the one factor that no one is talking about is this: if there is a so-called secular consolidation, there could be a counter-consolidation too. In 2009, Murli Manohar Joshi squeaked through because it was noted that Muslims were voting in large numbers for Ansari.This time too all calculations based only on caste combos may go wrong. There is likely to be a significant polarisation by the time Varanasi votes on 12 May.

Land is the new Lokpal: Anna, Kejriwal may unite in Jantar Mantar; Rahul will be MIA, again

from firstpost

Land is the new Lokpal: Anna, Kejriwal may unite in Jantar Mantar; Rahul will be MIA, again

Jantar Mantar is back in the headlines again. The ground zero of protest will once again be a staging ground for Anna Hazare, who has largely been on the sidelines since the Lokpal Bill was passed in ...


Parliament Live: Hope Budget Session will be a productive one, says PM Modi

from firstpost

Parliament Live: Hope Budget Session will be a productive one, says PM Modi

10:45 am: Modi says he hopes for productive session of Parliament, President leaves to address joint session of ParliamentPrime Minister Narendra Modi started the Budget Session of Parliament by sayin...

Modi govt braces for tough Budget Session, 44 bills on the agenda

from firstpost

Modi govt braces for tough Budget Session, 44 bills on the agenda

The government is bracing up for budget session beginning Monday where it will face a tough challenge to get bills replacing six ordinances passed.The government's agenda includes 44 items of financia...

Live: Rahul Gandhi seeks leave from Congress work, likely to skip major part of Budget session

from ibn

Live: Rahul Gandhi seeks leave from Congress work, likely to skip major part of Budget session

In spite of the massive numerical superiority in Lok Sabha, the Bharatiya Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance government is set to face a stormy Budget session which will commence on Monday ...

Not just a budget session gimmick: We should appreciate the new inclusive Modi

from firstpost

Not just a budget session gimmick: We should appreciate the new inclusive Modi

The first aftertaste of defeat has had a salutary effect on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has been reaching out to both national and international adversaries. The latest effort to seek a consensus...

Emulate Indian cricket team\'s discipline: Lok Sabha Speaker to lawmakers

from ibn

Emulate Indian cricket team\'s discipline: Lok Sabha Speaker to lawmakers

New Delhi: Ahead of a possibly stormy Budget session of Parliament, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said lawmakers should emulate the Indian cricket team\'s discipline which has kept India on...

Congress gameplan for Budget Session: Oppose ordinances 'tooth and nail'

from firstpost

Congress gameplan for Budget Session: Oppose ordinances 'tooth and nail'

New Delhi:After day-long hectic politicalconsultations ahead of the budget session beginning on Monday,the main opposition party Congress made it clear that it willoppose "tooth and nail" th...