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HindustanTimes Mon,29 Sep 2014

Battle of votes: Margin, not victory, is the challenge for Sonia Gandhi, Narendra Modi

Sunita Aron, Hindustan Times  Lucknow, April 16, 2014
First Published: 00:13 IST(16/4/2014) | Last Updated: 15:08 IST(16/4/2014)

Their victories ensured — more or less, so to speak — the battle between Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi seems to have turned into a margin war. And beleaguered Congress may again outsmart challenger BJP.

Till the other day, Gandhi’s Rae Bareli topped the list of high-profile constituencies, not only because the world’s third most powerful woman — according to the Forbes list — represents it, but also because she posted one of the highest victory margins in 2009.

Read: Modi sidesteps question on apologising for Gujarat riots

Gandhi recorded a margin of 3.72 lakh votes and was followed closely by son Rahul with a 3.70-lakh margin.

What’s more, nine candidates – five from the Congress, two from the BJP and one each from the RLD and the SP had won their seats by a 3.72-1.67 lakh margin in 2009.

This time also, the Congress is expecting a landslide win for Gandhi. For, the SP is not contesting from Rae Bareli, while the BJP and the BSP candidates are unlikely to put up much of a fight.

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But in Amethi, the general perception is that the victory margin of Rahul Gandhi will go down after the BJP fielded Smriti Irani. Much will depend on whether Modi will campaign in Amethi where AAP’s Kumar Vishwas has also been camping for the past two months.

The scenario, however, has changed in 2014, with Modi turning temple town Varanasi into his preferred field of battle. Political circles are no longer discussing his invincibility, but the victory margin that he is likely to post.

There are reasons. It won’t be a smooth ride for Modi with strong local muscleman Ajay Rai of the Congress and giant slayer Arvind Kejriwal from AAP among his opponents. Plus, there are possibilities of the opposition closing ranks against Modi.

The first telltale sign of an anti-Modi front being in the works surfaced when don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari withdrew his candidature to prevent Muslim votes from getting divided.

Though AAP is in a denial mode, Mukhtar has reportedly struck a deal with it, as he cannot join hands with Rai, as his men allegedly gunned down Rai’s brother in 1991. Plus, Rai’s past connections with the BJP may drive Muslims to the AAP camp.

But whatever the scenario that emerges finally, ensuring the highest margin for Modi will be a tough job for his backroom boys. The other BJP leaders also are not in a position to aim for the highest-margin honour.

Both BJP chief Rajnath Singh (Lucknow) and its manifesto committee chief Murli Manohar Joshi (Kanpur) are struggling in new constituencies, where victory, and not margin, is the issue.

Mulayam Singh Yadav is also in the race for the number one slot in Azamgarh, though the Ulema Council and BJP candidate Ramakant Yadav are eating into his Muslim and Yadav vote banks. In Mainpuri, AAP is trying to hit his 2009 victory margin of 1.73 lakh votes.


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