India anti-graft party fields PM candidate

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iol news pic Narendra Modi India

AP

Indias opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, raises his hands as others shout patriotic slogans during a yoga festival in New Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

New Delhi - The leader of India's anti-graft party Tuesday declared that he will run from the holy city of Varanasi against Narendra Modi, the main opposition candidate for prime minister.

Arvind Kejriwal, chief of Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP), made the announcement at a public meeting in Varanasi.

“I am ready to accept this challenge,” Kejriwal told crowds shouting their approval of his running against Hindu nationalist Modi in India's parliamentary elections to be held between April and May.

Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) member Modi is the front-runner in the race to be the country's premier as the ruling Indian National Congress faces strong public anger over corruption and mishandling of the economy.

Varanasi is located in the politically significant state of Uttar Pradesh that sends 80 lawmakers to the 543-member parliament. According to Indian media, however, there is little likelihood of Kejriwal beating Modi as Varanasi is considered a BJP bastion.

The AAP is contesting its first national elections.

The fledgling party scored a dramatic victory in local elections in Delhi in December tapping into the widespread public anger over government corruption.

Kejriwal, who became Delhi's chief minister, resigned after his government was unable to push through anti-corruption legislation.

Modi, chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, has been overseeing rapid economic development in his state. He remains controversial due to his alleged links to anti-Muslim riots in his state in 2002. He has consistently denied any role in the carnage.

Sapa-dpa


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