Vadodara & Varanasi: Is there a Cong-AAP plan at play?

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After a lot of delay, the Congress finally announced local MLA Ajay Rai as its candidate against Narendra Modi from Varanasi. It shattered the expectation that the Congress would have fielded a heavyweight candidate against the BJP's prime ministerial candidate from the holy city.

AAP & Congress declared candidates from Vadodara & Varanasi, respectively, on the same day

Hours before the Congress's announcement came, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) declared the name of Digambar Kulkarni, also a lesser-known person, as its candidate against Narendra Modi from the Vadodara seat in Gujarat. Just like the Congress had kept its decision on Varanasi pending for long, the AAP had declared its candidates from all but seats in Gujarat but Vadodara.

Did AAP & Congress make a deal to stop splitting the anti-Modi votes?

While many suspect that the Congress and BJP had arrived at an understanding at the top and did not field heavyweight candidates against tough opponents from the rival party, there could be another angle to the story. Did the AAP and Congress make a deal to tackle Narendra Modi from the two high-profile constituencies with calculation? Or is that their declaring the candidates from Vadodara and Varanasi on the same day just a co-incidence?

Minority vote-bank a big hope for both AAP & Congress and they don't want to divide it

From the pattern that emerged, one would not be surprised if there is a ploy in this. The Muslim clerics in Varanasi have expressed support for Arvind Kejriwal over the Congress while in Vadodara, the Congress hopes to bag the Muslim votes to cause some worry in the BJP's ranks. Madhusudan Mistry, a former MP from Gujarat, is an expert in electoral politics and had played a major role in guiding the Congress back to power in Karnataka last year.

At least a moral victory is significant

The man with an OBC background has a strong tribal support and the Congress believes that all these bits-and-pieces parts will play a key role in saving its grace against Modi in Vadodara. For both the AAP and Congress, the idea is to eat up the minority votes so that the gap with Modi is reduced significantly and claim a moral victory on May 16.

The Congress and AAP aim not to allow the anti-Modi votes to get split and hence the temptation to field heavyweight candidates against Modi was resisted. A Modi versus Mistry and Modi versus Kejriwal fight looks more sensible for both the Congress and AAP than a hyped-up triangular fight in either of these two seats. Particularly the Congress has bigger stakes to make its contest against Modi look more a balanced affair and it even went to the extent of undermining the inner-party reforms initiated by Rahul Gandhi by replacing Rawat, a candidate who was chosen in a primary, with Mistry at Vadodara.

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