Varanasi: Nearly 16 lakh voters will decide tomorrow the most high-profile contest of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, where BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is facing a triangular fight in this holy city mythologically known to be stationed on Lord Shiva's trident.
Modi is being challenged by Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal, who says that Modi can't become Prime Minister if he gets defeated from Varanasi, while Congress' Ajay Rai is banking on his "son of the soil" image in what he calls a contest with 'Siberian birds'.
BJP, on the other hand, is confident of a record win for Modi in a constituency which has been a saffron bastion for over two decades now, while it expects the 'Modi wave' and his projection as Prime Ministerial candidate to further widen the margin of victory.
The irony is that local issues have been put on back burner here and the contest is totally focussed on Modi, although the locals are grappling with a number of civic problems including pollution in the holy Ganga -- the mainstay for Banaras due to religious, tourism and other reasons.
While BJP has made it battle of prestige, almost all other parties seem to be fighting this election to defeat Modi.
BJP says its main election issue remains development and good governance, though the campaign has mainly focussed on Modi. The other parties including AAP and Congress have been seeking votes against Modi and his "saffron politics".
In the process, the election has been marred by polarisation on communal lines in Varanasi, which is a major pilgrimage destination for Hindus but Muslim community accounts for a sizeable chunk with over three lakh voters.
Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency comprises five assembly constituencies, two of which --Rohaniya and Sevapuri-- are mainly rural areas with significant minority population.
The minority population is also considerable in three urban assembly constituencies -- Varanasi North, Varanasi South and Varanasi Cantt.
Out of these, BJP has sitting MLAs from all three Varanasi assembly seats, while Rohaniya MLA Anupriya Patel is from Apna Dal, which has tied up with BJP for Lok Sabha polls, while she herself is contesting Lok Sabha election from Mirzapur.
Statistically, Varanasi has got a record number of 42 candidates in fray this time for Lok Sabha polls, including those from parties like SP, BSP and Trinamool Congress along with as many as 20 independents.
While SP and BSP candidates -- Kailash Nath Chaurasiya and Vijay Prakash Jaiswal -- are also expected to garner traditional votes that their respective parties command, the Trinamool candidate Indira Tiwari is looking for some votes from a significant Bengali population here and due to her lineage for being related to family of former Congress leader and MP Kamlapati Tripathi.