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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.

Wall Street set to open higher on hopes of Greece deal| Reuters

from firstpost

Wall Street set to open higher on hopes of Greece deal| Reuters

REUTERS - Wall Street was set to open higher on Tuesday, a day after the Dow and the S&P 500 registered their worst session since October, as investors hoped Greece would strike a last-minute deal...


AAP government cancels transfer orders of Anti-Corruption Branch SHO

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AAP government cancels transfer orders of Anti-Corruption Branch SHO

New Delhi: The Delhi government on Tuesday cancelled the transfer order of the SHO of Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) issued by Joint Commissioner MK Meena, holding that it was passed without prior permi...

Delhi Assembly passes VAT amendment bill; BJP MLA tears copy in protest

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Delhi Assembly passes VAT amendment bill; BJP MLA tears copy in protest

New Delhi: The Delhi Assembly on Tuesday passed the Delhi Value Added Tax (Second Amendment) Bill which will allow the state government to regulate the VAT on petroleum products, liquor and aerated dr...

Govt may consider any decision on land bill only after Bihar polls

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Govt may consider any decision on land bill only after Bihar polls

New Delhi: Government may consider any decision on the contentious land bill issue only after Bihar polls, expected to be in held in September, even as a parliamentary panel looking into the issue has...

Pankaja Munde denies allegations of irregularities in dam contract, says didn't favour anyone

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Pankaja Munde denies allegations of irregularities in dam contract, says didn't favour anyone

Mumbai: Dismissing allegations of irregularities in awarding contract to building dam, Maharashtra Minister Pankaja Munde said that she did not favour any contractor. The BJP MLA who returned from abr...

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Tripura bypolls: Ruling CPI-M retains seats by huge margins, BJP takes second place

Agartala: Tripura's ruling CPI-M on Tuesday retained by huge margins both the assembly seats where polling took place on Saturday, but the BJP edged out the Congress to take the second spot.The Commun...

First Pankaja and now Vinod Tawde: Education minister faces flak over irregularities in awarding contracts

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First Pankaja and now Vinod Tawde: Education minister faces flak over irregularities in awarding contracts

Mumbai:In fresh trouble for the BJP-led Government in Maharashtra, Education Minister Vinod Tawde is facing allegations of irregularities in connection with awarding of a Rs 191 crore contract without...