NEW DELHI/BANGALORE (TIP): Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday, March 16, said he was ready to contest the Lok Sabha polls against BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, but would take a decision at his party’s rally in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on March 23.

“The party wants me to contest against Modi, but the people of Varanasi will tell me on March 23,” Kejriwal said in Bangalore, sending the political mercury soaring. Underlining that it was “important to defeat Modi”, the former Delhi chief minister said: “It is a very big challenge. It is not a small challenge… I am ready to accept this challenge.”

But Kejriwal quickly added he will take a decision after judging the response of the people in Varanasi Kejriwal had set the tone for the tantalising contest through a tweet at 12.15pm, saying: “Many people asking me – “will I contest against Modi ji?” I will talk on this issue in today’s rally at Bangalore (sic).”

Kejriwal’s decision comes a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared Modi as the candidate from Varanasi, whose sitting parliamentarian Murli Manohar Joshi has been given the BJP ticket from Kanpur. The AAP leader’s move confirmed the buzz that had been going around for some time now and the AAP too had lined up its trump card accordingly. On March 2, the AAP had smartly let it be known that Kejriwal would take on Modi from Varanasi.

The Kejriwal versus Modi contest will invariably become a big story till the Lok Sabha polls end. Win or lose, this plays out perfectly for the AAP, which is making its national debut after a stunning performance in the Delhi assembly polls. Kejriwal had defeated three-time Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit in the assembly polls. Kejriwal’s big announcement came following his Saturday fund-raising dinner in the city that brought the AAP Rs. 50 lakh. Varanasi goes to polls on May 12, four days before votes are counted and India gets to know if there is a clear verdict in favour of a party to form the next government, or a hung one.