Arvind Kejriwal poses for a photograph as he visits the river Ganges in Varanasi. AFP
Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal was greeted with eggs by BJP supporters in Varanasi where he has gone to seek opinion from public on whether he should contest against BJP's prime ministerial Narendra Modi in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Protestors threw black ink at him and police had to resort to mild lathicharge to control the mob.
Kejriwal vowed to defeat Modi after facing the hostile reception from Modi supporters. "Let's see what the people of Varanasi say, as of now we are preparing to ask them and seek their approval for the contest," Kejriwal said.
"I don't see Banaras as a losing battle. I will defeat Modi in the Lok Sabha election,” the former Delhi chief minister told a television channel, shortly after reaching Varanasi by train from New Delhi.
Eggs were thrown at his car outside the Kashi Vishwanath temple, with the protestors steadily raising anti-Kejriwal slogans and asking him to leave the Hindu holy city. Calling him a "traitor", hundreds of slogan-shouting people blocked his cavalcade while keeping a steady chant of "Modi! Modi!".
Security personnel had a tough time controlling the mob. The demonstrators said they wanted only Gujarat chief minister Modi to contest the Lok Sabha battle from Varanasi.
The Aam Aadmi Party leader was set to address a public rally at which he was expected to seek support for taking on Modi, the BJP nominee from the seat.
"We want India to be corruption free. We hope that we have the blessings of god to do what needs to be done," said Kejriwal after taking the dip in the Ganga.
"I have prayed to give me strength to fight to save the country. It is sad to see Ganga so polluted. Several crores of rupees have been spent to clean the river. However, until corruption is not stopped, the work will be undone," he added.
He also visited the Bhairon Mandir and sought blessings there.
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The AAP leader, who shocked Congress by unseating it from power in Delhi after 17 years, has said he is willing to contest against Modi, but would file papers only after seeking opinion -- today's visit is meant for the exercise -- from the people of Varanasi.
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But most AAP workers believe the visit is a formality and Kejriwal has already decided on challenging BJP's PM nominee and candidate for the seat Narendra Modi.
In contesting against Modi, Kejriwal has signalled that he is willing to take his pugnacious battle with Modi a step further.
During his Gujarat tour in which he claimed to have exposed Modi's development model and in calling out the mainstream media as being pro-Modi, Kejriwal has posed a direct challenge to the PM-aspirant.
The BJP may dismiss it as a no-contest but Kejriwal has demonstrated willingness to take Modi head on, something that the Congress has been diffident about.
Read: Dateline Varanasi: 5 reasons for Kejriwal to take on Modi
Polling for the Varanasi seat will be held on May 12, four days before votes are counted, in the final round of the nine-phase elections that kick off on April 7.
Kejriwal hasn't been known to shy away from taking political risks and his poll battle with Modi will invariably become a big story till the Lok Sabha polls end.
The Kejriwal-Modi face-off will admittedly be big on political messaging, but the battle for Varanasi would be fought outside the constituency — at rallies that both leaders address across the country over the next two months.
The party was keen to pit Kejriwal against Modi in a repeat of Delhi but outside Gujarat, a party leader said.
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"We wanted him to take on Modi only if he contested from outside Gujarat so that the Gujarat CM would not have the language advantage," the leader said.
Some BJP workers allegedly threw eggs at Kejriwal when he came out of the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
They also shouted slogans 'Jo na lad paya khaki se, woh kya ladega Kashi se' (how will one who ran from the police fight election in Kashi).
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