Bangalore, March 16:
A day after the BJP fielded Narendra Modi as its candidate in Varanasi, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal declared Sunday that he was ready to contest against the prime ministerial nominee in the Lok Sabha polls.
But Kejriwal told an election rally here that though his party had asked him to take on Modi, he would do so only after knowing the response of the people of the Hindu holy city in Uttar Pradesh March 23.
“My party has said you should take on Modi in the election,” Kejriwal told his audience, triggering a roar of approval.
Underlining that it was “important to defeat Modi”, the former Delhi chief minister said: “It is a very big challenge. It is not a small challenge… I am ready to accept this challenge.”
But Kejriwal quickly added that he will visit Varanasi March 23 and take a final decision after finding out if people there wanted him to that.
“I appeal to people from all over the country to reach Varanasi March 23,” he said in an appeal that clearly indicated that the Aam Aadmi Party was intent on challenging the Gujarat chief minister.
Saying that the political establishment had become symbols of corruption, communalism and rising food prices, he said it was important to defeat the top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
“We have to defeat Narendra Modi too.”
But Kejriwal insisted that Modi must fight from only one parliamentary seat, not two as it is being rumoured.
“We hear he is looking for a safe seat. Why does he want a safe seat? We need a bold PM, not one who looks for a safe seat.”
Kejriwal’s campaign theme was that people across the country were sick and tired of established political parties and desired change.
He particularly targeted the Congress and the BJP as well as Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and BJP’s star leader Modi.
“People are of course angry with the Congress… Some say they will get only 100 (Lok Sabha) seats this time, some say only 50, some say only 25.”
In the same breath, he said the electorate also felt betrayed by parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Indian National Lok Dal, Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party.
Challenging Modi’s claims of developing Gujarat economically, Kejriwal dished out facts and figures to show that this was not true and that Modi had spread “white lies”.
He said that contrary to claims, corruption was rampant in Gujarat and 800 farmers had committed suicide in Gujarat since Modi took power in 2001.
Modi, he said, stood for “crony capitalism” and that some 60,000 small scale and medium scale industries had closed down in Gujarat during Modi’s rule.
Kejriwal rubbished BJP criticism that he “ran away” by deciding to resign as the Delhi chief minister Feb 14 over the Jan Lokpal bill.
“Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned as the railway minister after a railway accident. Did Shastri run away from his responsibilities?
“We have not run away… When the next election takes place in Delhi, we will get more than 50 seats.”