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Varanasi fears polarisation as Arvind Kejriwal hits campaign trail

As political pitch gets stronger in this city of temples and weavers with the arrival of AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, leaders across party lines are fearing a highly polarised scenario on religious lines ahead of Lok Sabha polls next month.

While senior leaders from BJP dismiss the impact of any anti-Modi polarisation among Muslims, who account for about 18 per cent votes here and close to 30 per cent in urban areas, local leaders from various parties including the saffron party said there was a high probability of Muslim votes being polarised towards the strongest candidate against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Local leaders from various parties including Congress, SP and BSP, also accused Kejriwal of trying to influence Muslims by projecting himself as the strongest candidate against Modi.

Soon after arriving here this morning, Kejriwal met Benares Shahar-e-Kazi Ghulam Nasir and sought his support. According to AAP leaders here, Nasir told Kejriwal that he would pray for his success.

Kejriwal also met some Balmiki Samaj leaders and visited areas populated by Dalits to seek their support. He is staying at the house of Viplav Mishra, brother of late Veerbhadra Mishra, who was mahant of Sankat Mochan Mandir, a Hanuman temple which is very popular among locals and people visiting Varanasi.

Kejriwal is likely to file his nomination on April 23, before which he may go to Amethi for a couple of days to campaign for party colleague Kumar Vishwas who is fighting against Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

When asked whether BJP was wary of any anti-Modi polarisation among Muslim voters in favour of Kejriwal, party leaders dismissed such claims, saying Modi’s win was a foregone conclusion and the fight was only about margins.

BJP’s Nalin Kohli, who is camping here for elections, said it was not at all concerned about polarisation and the party was fighting the elections with agenda of ‘one India, great India’ and the new government would work for solving the problems faced by people of this country.

However, some other local BJP leaders accepted that there were apprehensions about polarisation of votes against Modi, but the quantum would not be enough to defeat the party’s prime ministerial candidate and the ‘ever-growing’ wave in his favour.

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