Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday told villagers in Varanasi if they chose Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, they would suffer a two-pronged loss.
"Modi [if he wins] will leave this seat and represent Vadodara, from where he's contesting as well. So, Varanasi will remain as it is now. Besides, a by-election will be forced upon you," Kejriwal told a small gathering of 200 people, mostly AAP volunteers, at Korauta village, 12 km from Varanasi.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal interacts with farmers in Varanasi. (Photo by Darpan Singh)
"But an AAP win from Varanasi will change India's politics," he said.
Trying to cash in on the anger among farmers because of land acquisition to build residential buildings, Kejriwal said, "I hear hi-tech cities are proposed to be built here. Voting for Modi will mean the Adanis and the Ambanis will snatch land from poor farmers without payment of any compensation as they have done in Gujarat".
On a month-long campaign, Kejriwal on Tuesday reached Varanasi, where nominations begin on April 17 followed by polling on May 12.
On Wednesday, he started his series of 'choupals' at several villages in Rohania and Sevapuri - the two rural segments in the Varanasi parliamentary constituency.
Away from the media glare, the AAP leader also admitted the manner in which he resigned as chief minister of Delhi was not well thought-out.
"When I quit, I thought it was the biggest sacrifice we're making, people would praise us for this... in the hindsight, I feel we should have consulted people," he said.
The small crowd, mostly youths and hardly any women or elderly, did not seem very excited, but they showed interest in what Kejriwal said.
They occasionally cheered whenever Kejriwal took on the political bigwigs.
Lal Man Patel, 60, a local, said, "We will vote for Modi. I came here out of curiosity".
Physically challenged Obadullah Ansari, 25, who came on his tri-cycle covering a 3-km distance, said, "I am impressed by Kejriwal's honesty and I will definitely vote for AAP in this election."
Instead of taking direct questions from people, Kejriwal chose to accept chits with questions and answered them. The AAP leader said his party would also contest the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and "would bring down corruption in 49 days like it was done in Delhi".
To a question why people should vote for him, the former Delhi chief said, "Yahi to aadhe ghante se bol raha hoon… to bring about a revolution".
Looking to fight the absconder tag, he said, "In Varanasi, BJP people have put up posters, branding me a bhagoda. Main bhaga nahi tha… It takes a lot of guts to leave a CM's job. Lord Rama and Raja Harish Chandra also made sacrifices, thank god there was no BJP then to attack them."
The AAP leader has been facing criticism in some quarters after he chose to quit a 49-day government in Delhi and moved to fight Lok Sabha elections.
Further attacking BJP, he said, "Main Ganga naha ke nikla, roodraksh ki maala pahni, BJP waalo ne mere upar andaa fek diya. Yahi Hindu dharma hai?"
He further cautioned, "If you vote for either Modi or [Congress leader] Rahul Gandhi, be prepared for a four-fold hike in gas prices and resultant inflation. If you vote for us, we will die in Parliament, but will not let gas prices go up, I'm begging.. reject Modi and Rahul and their parties would be finished."
Local leaders on the dais asked Kejriwal, who reached the venue an hour behind schedule, to cut short his speech as he had to address more meeting through the day.
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.