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Modi, Kejriwal fight for Varanasi votes with different campaign styles

As India approaches the final days of its election, all eyes are on the central Indian city of Varanasi. There, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is up against the Common Man Party's Arvind Kejriwal.

NEW DELHI: As India approaches the final days of its election, all eyes are on the central Indian city of Varanasi.

There, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is up against the Common Man Party's Arvind Kejriwal.

Their campaign styles are poles apart.

Mr Kejriwal’s campaign style is unassuming, modest and targeted at the common man.

Mr Modi’s is flamboyant and fuelled by what seems like a bottomless war chest.

The Common Man or Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been working tirelessly for the past two months in Varanasi to ensure the victory of their prime ministerial candidate Kejriwal.

Relying mainly on volunteers and small contributors to manage its campaign, the AAP has remained low-key, like its leader.

Social media and door-to-door campaigning is the party's chosen way to tell voters they are the only anti-corruption front in the country.

Mr Kerjiwal, who stays in the holy city with his family, has made grand promises to end corruption and make governance transparent if elected.

He is being pitched as a 'dragon-slayer' of sorts, contesting this high-profile election against Mr Modi, who is leading all polls as India's favourite prime ministerial candidate, but does not live in Varanasi.

AAP leader Manish Sisodia said: "They have a war room bought with money, and we have hundreds of youth who are seething with anger and are determined to evict corruption. We have a fire room."

In contrast, Mr Modi's style is showy and extravagant.

Tactics include flooding social media with Mr Modi's messages, giant hoardings and posters, buying advertisements in print and electronic media and swamping Varanasi with the BJP's message of ridding the country of Congress party rule.

According to the AAP, the BJP has pumped millions of dollars into its election campaign.

But the BJP has denied those allegations.

Drigvindu Mani Singh, a BJP worker, said: "We have not spent exorbitant funds on PR activities or on social media.

“All this work is being done by Mr Modi's supporters from across the country, who are spending out of their own pockets. The party is not funding these activities."

Varanasi elects its candidate on May 12, which is also the last day of polling in the world's largest election.

If the BJP becomes the single largest party in the country and if Mr Modi wins his seat in Varanasi, then he would certainly occupy the Prime Minister's office, situated in the capital New Delhi.

And if he does so, he will be India's first prospective prime minister who has run such a sustained mega-campaign.  

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