Congress-SP likely to join hands in Varanasi against Modi The Congress is burning the midnight oil to choose a potential candidate against BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi in Varanasi. Currently, two names are doing the rounds in the temple city - Ahibhushan Singh, the first cousin of Kashi Naresh (King of Kashi) Anant Narayan Singh; and professor Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, son of Veer Bhadra Mishra - former Mahant of Sankat Mochan Temple and recipient of Time magazine's 'Hero of the Planet' (1999) for his efforts to clean up the Ganga. He is a professor of electronics at the Benaras Hindu University (BHU) and chief priest of Sankat Mochan temple. The king is considered the representative of Mahadev (Lord Shiva) in Varanasi. But he keeps away from politics. Ahibhushan, though, has political ambitions. Sources in the Congress told Mail Today that these two names were recently discussed during a meeting between Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh and Samajwadi Party (SP) president Mulayam Singh Yadav. They were of the view that there should be a common candidate of the Congress and the SP against Modi. Mulayam has promised he will withdraw his party's candidate Kailash Chaurasia if any of these two agree to contest against the BJP leader. Interestingly, some senior SP members had also floated the name of Azam Khan, Uttar Pradesh Urban Development Minister and the SP's Muslim face, as the SP's Varanasi candidate. The idea was that it might rejuvenate 2.45 lakh Muslim voters of the constituency. But Mulayam didn't agree to it because he feared stoking Azam's ambition. Ram Bachan Pandey, former president of the BHU student union and a senior member of the SP, confirmed that Azam's name was suggested against Modi. "Some senior members, including me, were against this idea because we thought that pitting a Muslim candidate against Modi would polarise the votes on religious lines. But a candidate with a Hindu identity in the conventional sense can easily weaken Modi, who is largely representing Hindutva," Pandey said. A senior state Congress leader said it was Mulayam who suggested a candidate from the king's family. "Mishra, on the other hand, is in touch with the Congress leaders for the last one year. However, they both believe that their defeat is almost sure and are shying away from the challenge. But we still have hope," the leader added. However, when asked about his views on Modi, Mishra said, "He may do something for Varanasi if he becomes the prime minister." In the meantime, Congress leader Ajay Rai has already started campaigning in Varanasi. AAP banks on silent voters in holy city Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal will follow the tradition on his first visit to Varanasi as a Lok Sabha candidate on Tuesday and offer prayers at Kashi Vishwanth temple. After this, he will hold a road show that will pass through Maidagini Crossing, Lohatia, Kabirchuara, Lahurabir and Chetganj before culminating at Beniyabagh, where he will address a rally. The areas are inhabited by a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims, and AAP workers have extensively campaigned in these localities. They will chant 'Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram' at Kejriwal's road show. AAP leaders say it would be their theme song in Varanasi. Popularly known as Ram Dhun, the song was Mahatma Gandhi's favourite bhajan. "It is no secret that a section of silent voters of Varanasi is not excited about Narendra Modi and believes that an experiment with a new leader would be the best bet. They also believe that corruption is the root cause of majority of India's problems and only AAP has clearly spelt out its campaign against graft," said Ramanand Rai, an AAP leader. "Those who are trying to reject AAP are committing a big mistake," said AAP leader Alka Lamba. Ram Dhiraj, a campaign manager for Kejriwal, told MAIL TODAY that they have formed 12 teams for their door-to-door campaign, each of which is accompanied by a 'nukkad natak' troupe that performs on corruption- and crime-related issues. "A team of 50 workers has also been formed to provide security to Kejriwal during his visit. We have come to know that the RSS has prepared a list of our workers in the city and at least two Sangh workers have been set after each AAP member. They are keeping a close watch on us," he said. Dhiraj claimed that at least 500 brooms (AAP's election symbol) are bought here every day by people to campaign for the party.