International media descends to cover Varanasi poll battle

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Varanasi attracts international media
Varanasi, May 8:  As election juggernaut rolls on, the international media has descended in large number on this temple town to cover the most high-profile battle involving Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, both of whom figure in a recent Time magazine list of the world's 100 most influential people.

For many in the foreign media, the fight between AAP leader Kejriwal and BJP's Prime Ministerial nominee Modi is a battle of "ideas" which has more resonance for global audience than any other constituency, including Amethi and Rae Bareli.

South Asia Bureau Chief of AFP, Chris Otton, said the Varanasi contest was the "most fascinating" of this Lok Sabha elections for the foreign media as it features the two most talked-about Indian politicians of their time. "It's not often that you have two candidates who have just been chosen by Time magazine in their list of the world's 100 most influential people slugging it out for the same seat," said Otton, who has been covering high-pitch campaigning here for past few days.

Kejriwal was ahead of Modi in the Time magazine's readers' poll two weeks back of the most influential people in the world.

Otton said though there was a "dip" in foreign interest in the Indian elections due to "length of the whole process", the interest has now gathered momentum ahead of the "grand finale" in Varanasi.

Varanasi goes to polls on May 12

Nilanjana Bhowmick, Time magazine's South Asia Correspondent, thinks the fight here has symbolised the "sentient centre" of the Indian elections. "On one hand there is the formidable Modi, whose win most thought was pretty much assured, whom a neophyte like Kejriwal has dared to take on. It's a political battle no doubt, but it is a battle of ideas too, and a pointer to the future trajectory of India," she said.

Though Congress has fielded Ajay Rai, a Varanasi local and the MLA from Pindra assembly constituency, most of the foreign correspondents say the main fight will be between Modi and Kejriwal who have been running a high-pitched campaign for the May 12 election.

Describing Modi as the "greatest showman" in Indian politics, Bhowmick said he knows how to woo people. "Modi, of course, has a huge fan following. He is an articulate man, an astute politician and a great rabble rouser. He knows how to reach out to people with his ideas," she said.

PTI

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