As Jitendra Mishra negotiates his autorickshaw through pot-holed roads in Varanasi, a mere mention of the electoral tempo, which is rising by the day in the temple town, gets him talking about the Modi versus Kejriwal battle.
And against the popular perception that Modi will be a
clear-cut winner, he is confident Kejriwal will pip Modi to the post.
"You may laugh when I say Kejriwal will win, but mark my words, he will make history here in the holy city," he said.
Later in the evening at Chetganj, a congested locality not far from Beniyabagh, the venue for Modi rally which now stands cancelled, a group of shop-owners dismiss Mishra's contention and said any prospect of Kejriwal defeating Modi is unimaginable.
Read: Kejriwal dares Modi to an open discussion
They, however, concede Kejriwal has won a number of Banarasi hearts.
"Irrespective of the result, one must admit Kejriwal is a good man and his time will come soon," said Ramanand Srivastava, who runs a cyber café in Chetganj.
What links the unabashed Kejriwal fan Mishra and strong Modi supporter Srivastava is a mutual admiration for the AAP leader.
And this is no mean feat for the leader of a fledgling party who only a month ago faced a hostile reception from this holy city.
On March 25, the day Kejriwal landed in the city for his first rally and road show, Modi fans greeted him with eggs and ink and neutral locals jeered him for running away from responsibility in Delhi.
So what changed in one month?
The locals said the new party has given a new meaning to election campaigning and claimed that they had never ever witnessed such a sincere effort by any political party.
BJP's former corporator from the city Sadhna Vedanti agreed AAP had edged passed them as far as public meetings and door-to-door campaign is concerned.
"They did start the trend but we have caught up," she told HT. District electoral office records confirmed the same. As compared to BJP's 140 public meetings AAP held 208 meetings in the constituency till May 5.
Led by Kejriwal who has held innumerable public meetings and road shows, the party has knocked every door in every lane and bylane of Varanasi.
A senior AAP leader who wished to remain anonymous said Kejriwal, whose day begins at 7 am in the morning and ends at midnight, holds six to seven meetings every day including road shows.
"In each of his meeting he meets more than 5,000 people and these meetings are a two-way dialogue which gives the people a sense of participation unlike other high-profile leaders who deliver monologues," he said.
Other than the interactive public meetings by Kejriwal, his volunteer force of more than 10,000, who have flooded the city, go door to door seeking support for their leader.
At different roundabouts, one can find young volunteers in white AAP cap holding banners and distributing pamphlets.
As the day of the reckoning nears, the AAP brigade is happy it has fought well, irrespective of the outcome.
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