Anti-corruption champion set to challenge India's Modi

Published March 25, 2014
Arvind Kejriwal, head of the Aam Aadmi party. — File photo
Arvind Kejriwal, head of the Aam Aadmi party. — File photo

VARANASI: The leader of a fledgling Indian anti-corruption party was expected to announce plans Tuesday to stand against election frontrunner and opposition leader Narendra Modi in the holy city of Varanasi.

Arvind Kejriwal, head of the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, arrived in Varanasi on an overnight train from New Delhi and has called a rally for later in the day, according to a party spokesman.

“He has said very clearly that he will make an announcement about his candidature today,” the party’s national spokesman Deepak Bajpai told AFP.

“He has said that he will ask the crowd at his rally in Varanasi, and if they feel that he should, he will.” Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior figure within the AAP said he was “confident” Kejriwal would decide to challenge Modi, who is the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) pick for prime minister.

“Given the preparation... I feel that Kejriwal will announce his candidature against Modi,” the source told AFP.

Without confirming whether he was running against Modi, Kejriwal told media that his real aim was to challenge the ruling Congress party and the BJP, both of which had failed voters.

“It is not just about challenging Modi,” Kejriwal told NDTV en route to Varanasi. “People in this country don’t vote for a person, they become angry and vote against a person. I am saying this time let us defeat both political parties,” he said.

Although analysts say there is little likelihood of Kejriwal beating Modi, a challenge in such a high-profile constituency will guarantee maximum media coverage for him and his party.

The AAP, which is standing in its first general election, gained control of the Delhi state assembly in December after it rode a wave of anger about a series of corruption scandals.

Kejriwal, a former tax official turned corruption crusader and politician, himself briefly became Delhi’s chief minister after he unseated the incumbent Sheila Dikshit of the Congress party in her constituency.

India’s nine-phase general election begins on April 7 and ends on May 12 in the giant state of Uttar Pradesh, which includes Varanasi. Counting and results will be announced four days later on May 16.

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