Indian anti-corruption party leader to stand in national elections
Agence France-Presse in Varanasi, India
The leader of a fledgling Indian anti-corruption party yesterday announced plans to run against front runner and opposition leader Narendra Modi in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi in looming elections.
Arvind Kejriwal, head of the Aam Aadmi or Common Man Party, said he was ready to take on Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in general elections that kick off next month.
"I will contest elections from Varanasi. I am ready to accept the challenge and fight Modi from this holy turf," the 45-year-old said to loud cheers at a rally.
After his arrival in the city, Kejriwal took a traditional dip in the sacred Ganges river before visiting a famous temple where priests smeared his forehead with sandalwood paste.
His trip was marred briefly when opponents splattered him with ink as he toured the city in an open truck with close aides. Local media reports said eggs were also hurled.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal told the media his real aim was to challenge the graft-tainted ruling Congress party and the BJP, both of which had "failed voters".
"It is not just about challenging Modi," Kejriwal told NDTV en route to Varanasi.
"People in this country don't vote for a person, they become angry and vote against a person. I am saying this time let us defeat both political parties," he said.
Although analysts say there is little likelihood of Kejriwal beating Modi, challenging him in such a high-profile constituency will guarantee maximum media coverage for the Aam Aadmi leader and his party.
Modi's choice of Varanasi is loaded with symbolism, given his background as a Hindu hawk.
India's nine-phase general election begins on April 7 and ends on May 12 in the giant state of Uttar Pradesh, which includes Varanasi. Results will be announced on May 16.