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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.

Babus, RSS, BJP: One-time Modi favourite Smriti Irani is pissing everyone off

from firstpost

Babus, RSS, BJP: One-time Modi favourite Smriti Irani is pissing everyone off

The babus are upset, the RSS is seething and the BJP isn't in any mood to defend her.Smriti Irani, once seen as a favourite of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after being given the charge of the Human Re...


Act against corrupt partymen in UP: BJP tells Mulayam Singh Yadav

from firstpost

Act against corrupt partymen in UP: BJP tells Mulayam Singh Yadav

Lucknow: The BJP on Monday sought action from Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav against corrupt parliamentarians and legislators of his party.The jibe came a day after Yadav at an event o...

Sahara backs Sebi's claim to bring back $13-mn from jet sale proceeds

from firstpost

Sahara backs Sebi's claim to bring back $13-mn from jet sale proceeds

Engaged in a long-drawn legal battle with Sebi, Sahara has supported the regulator's claim before a US court to bring back nearly $13 million from sale proceeds of a business jet of the crisis-hit gro...

Arvind Kejriwal to review departmental work after office hours; officials fuming

from firstpost

Arvind Kejriwal to review departmental work after office hours; officials fuming

New Delhi: Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's directive to all department heads to do a presentation of their work after office hours has left many officials fuming.The review of their work, which for t...

AAP's Ashutosh slams Yadav, Bhushan for 'conspiring' against Arvind Kejriwal

from firstpost

AAP's Ashutosh slams Yadav, Bhushan for 'conspiring' against Arvind Kejriwal

New Delhi: In a scathing attack on party dissidents Yogendra Yadav and Prashat Bhushan, AAP leader Ashutosh on Sunday came down strongly on them for "conspiring" and attempting to remove Arv...

Reports of snooping on Netaji's kin by Nehru govt are motivated news plants: Congress

from firstpost

Reports of snooping on Netaji's kin by Nehru govt are motivated news plants: Congress

New Delhi: Congress on Sunday accused the BJP and Narendra Modi government of running a "sinister campaign" against national icons as it dubbed reports of snooping on the family of Netaji Su...

CBI doing its job: BJP rebuts Mamata allegations on PM Modi being behind notices to TMC

from firstpost

CBI doing its job: BJP rebuts Mamata allegations on PM Modi being behind notices to TMC

Kolkata: The BJP on Sunday rebutted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's allegation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was behind the CBI notices to the TMC, saying the probe agency was only do...