Narendra Modi’s candidature, it appears, is reason enough for political enthusiasts to contest form the Varanasi parliamentary seat.
A record 78 candidates had filed their nomination papers from Varanasi giving sleepless nights to district officials. But 34 nominations including that of slain forest brigand Veerappan’s nephew PN Ramachandran were found invalid on Friday, leaving 44 in the fray.
Almost a third of these 44 are outsiders.
Ramachandran, 34, had filed his papers as an independent candidate on April 21.
He had come all the way from his native village Nagamarai Puture in Dharamapuri district of Tamil Nadu. He said that Modi’s candidature proved to be too alluring for him not to give Varanasi a go.
Modi was the ‘magnet’ too for challengers from further down south in Kerala, and from New Delhi, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and other districts of Uttar Pradesh. Apart from independents, most of these candidates are from lesser-known political parties with no base in UP.
“Kashi is large-hearted, and it is not in the nature of its residents to resent outsiders, Modi and Arvind Kejriwal being the most high-profile among them,” said Vishwanath Pandey of Banaras Hindu University. “The two have made Varanasi the centre of attraction, and unheard of parties want to be in this political spotlight.”
Among the locals is five-time MLA and Congress candidate Ajay Rai, formerly of BJP and known as a ‘muscleman’. Trinamool Congress’ Indira Tiwari, granddaughter of former UP chief minister Kamalapati Tripathi, too is a local with a Hindu Mahasabha connection.
Then there is Varanasi’s habitual loser Narendra Nath Dubey, who wants to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for losing the most elections. His outfit is Janshakti Ekta Party.
Last date for withdrawal of nomination papers is April 28.