The leader of a fledgling Indian anti-corruption party yesterday announced plans to run against frontrunner and opposition leader Narendra Modi in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi in looming elections.
Arvind Kejriwal, head of the Aam Aadmi or Common Man Party, said he was ready to take on Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in general elections that kick off in phases next month.
"I will contest elections from Varanasi. I am ready to accept the challenge and fight Modi from this holy turf," the 45-year-old said to loud cheers at a rally.
His trip to Varansi was marred briefly when opponents splattered him with ink as he toured the city in an open truck with close aides. Local media reports said eggs were also hurled.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal told the media his real aim was to challenge the graft-tainted ruling Congress party and the BJP, both of which had "failed voters".
"It is not just about challenging Modi," Kejriwal told NDTV en route to Varanasi.
Although analysts say there is little likelihood of Kejriwal beating Modi, challenging him in such a high-profile constituency will guarantee maximum media coverage for the Aam Aadmi leader and his party.
Modi's choice of Varanasi is loaded with symbolism, given his background as a Hindu hawk.
India's nine-phase general election begins on April 7 and ends on May 12 in the giant state of Uttar Pradesh, which includes Varanasi. Results will be announced four days later on May 16.