Varanasi (AsiaNews /Agencies) - Arvind Kejrival , leader of the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP "common man"), has chosen to run for election in Varanasi in April and May next. The announcement was made yesterday, during a rally held on the banks of the Ganges, the sacred river of India that bathes the city of Uttar Pradesh. His decision comes just one week after another great protagonist of the political scene chose Varanasi as his seat: Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party.
On his arrival in Varanasi, Kejrival made his way to the Ganges aboard an open wagon, surrounded by thousands of supporters, but also by BJP activists. The latter attempted to disturb the AAP leader in every possible way, to the point of throwing eggs and ink against the cart (see photo). However this did not stop Kejrival: after being immersed in the holy waters of the Ganges, he visited a Hindu temple, where some priests marked his forehead with sandalwood paste. During the rally he expressed his intentions clearly: "I will run for election from Varanasi. I am ready to accept the challenge and combat Modi from this sacred place".
Varanasi is considered sacred to Hinduism, so much so that every Hindu wants to end his life there and to be cremated so his ashes can be scattered on the waters of the Ganges. Choosing it as his seat, Narendra Modi is trying to further strengthen the identity of religion and state (Hindutva), supported by Hindu nationalists, often violently. However, as activist Lenin Raghuvanshi told AsiaNews, the city is mostly a "symbol of the spiritual and cultural pluralism of India" because it is also inhabited by representatives of other religions (Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists), which in time have come to consider it their spiritual center. The same Kejrival - a Hindu - aims to conquer the voters of the Islamic faith, about 300 thousand people out of a population of 1.6 million.
It promises to be a real head-to- head between the two candidates: the vote will take place in Varanasi on May 12, the ninth and final stage of these general elections will begin April 7, and Kejrival and Modi still have over a month to convince the electorate. In addition, Uttar Pradesh, where the city is located, is the state with the most seats in the entire nation and has always been considered a major battlefield.