Varanasi: Mother of all LS Polls?

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Varanasi is becoming the mother of all battles in this Lok Sabha polls not because Narendra Modi is locked in a contest with AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal and Congress’ Ajay Rai but for having a large number of parties and independents in fray.

When the clock struck 3 PM on Thursday, the deadline for filing nominations for Varanasi constituency, there were at least 77 candidates in fray, the highest in Uttar Pradesh and way ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi that came second with 34 candidates.

Varanasi seat could even see voting using the traditional ballot papers if there are more than 63 candidates as an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) can accommodate only 64 options, including the mandatory NOTA button. If ballot paper is used then the result could be delayed.

“In case the number of contesting candidates goes beyond 64 in any constituency, EVMs cannot be used in such a constituency. The conventional method of voting by means of ballot box and ballot paper will have to be adopted in such a constituency,” the Election Commission website said.

The final picture will be clear on April 28, the last day for withdrawal of nominations.

The highest number of candidates in the first six phases – from April 7 to April 24 – was in Chennai South constituency where there are 42 candidates followed by Hisar (Haryana 41) and Chennai North 40.

The national and international attention has been concentrated on this holy city after Modi chose Varanasi to contest in Lok Sabha elections. Out of the 80 seats, 14 constituencies have 20 or more candidates in fray. Rae Bareli, where Sonia Gandhi is contesting, has 17 candidates.

Thirty-eight parties, including Congress, SP, BSP and AAP, have fielded candidates while there are 39 independent candidates. One of the 76 nominees is a covering candidate for Modi, who will withdraw from the race once the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate’s nomination paper is accepted after scrutiny.

Even Varanasi has attracted two candidates from down south. P N Sriramachandran, who claims to be the nephew of forest brigand Veerappan, and Johnson Thomas from Kozhikode are in the fray against Modi. Sriramachandran is also fighting against Rahul in Amethi. “Modi and Gandhi may be good persons but the policies of their parties are not good for country,” he told Deccan Herald over phone.

There are candidates from parties like Shoshit Samaj Dal, Sarva Samaj Kalyan Party, Nirmal India Party, Moulik Adhikar Party, Rashtriya Ambedkar Dal, Gandhi Ekta Party, Yuva Vikas Party, Bahujan Mukti Party, Sanatan Sanskriti Raksha Dal and All India Pichhada Jan Samaj Party, according to Uttar Pradesh Chief Electoral Office website.

Apart from the main players, parties like Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) have also fielded candidates there.

Interestingly, there are three ‘Narendras’ in the fray — Narendra Nath Dubey Adig of Jan Shakti Ekta Party, Narendra Bahadur Singh of Manav Kalyan Munch and Narendra, an independent.

While Kejriwal and Rai filed their nominations earlier, Modi waited for the last day to file his papers. The Gujarat Chief Minister is also fighting from Vadodara.

(PS: The news report appeared in Deccan Herald on April 25, 2014)

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