Elections 2014: Has Kejriwal upset the BJP's calculations in Varanasi?

Arvind Kejriwal’s impressive road show in Varanasi this past Friday has reportedly spooked the BJP and sent them scurrying to check the math on what they have projected will be a big Narendra Modi victory in the holy city.

Modi’s decision to contest from Varanasi was based on the BJP’s need to do well in Uttar Pradesh if the party wants to form the central government and to project the seeming inevitability of a Modi wave. A thumping victory for the BJP would cement the image of a “Modi tsunami”. Anything less would be blow to the carefully cultivated narrative of the Prime Ministerial candidate’s impregnability.

Arvind Kejriwal has campaigned relentlessly in Varanasi. Getty Images

Arvind Kejriwal has campaigned relentlessly in Varanasi. Getty Images

However, things aren’t going exactly to plan and while the BJP still expects Modi to win, it is his margin of victory that has become a concern.

According to the Hindustan Times, “Kejriwal is said to have made inroads into the Congress’ minority vote bank – Muslims account for 3.5 lakh of the total 17 lakh voters in Varanasi. Upper caste supporters of Congress are also believed to be in discomfort with muscleman Mukhtar Ansari backing Congress candidate Ajai Rai, a rival in the region.”

BJP leaders conceded to the Hindustan Times that Kejriwal has attracted votes from both sets of communities, making him a bigger threat than they initially thought.

Adding to the BJP’s concerns is the low margin of victory in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections for Murali Manohar Joshi, who won by just 17000 votes. Joshi gave up his seat for Modi his time around.

The BJP has won Varanasi ever since its Ayodhya campaign back in the 1990s. It won the seat by a margin of over 1 lakh voters twice in 1996 and 1998, the year its candidate polled 277,232 votes, Hindustan Times reported. Since then, however, the party has not come close to the 2 lakh mark again. It is this trend that the BJP wants to break with Modi. It is this trend Kejriwal threatens to maintain.

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