Varanasi: Their causes vary from wanting to turn Varanasi into the religious capital of India to protesting against bottled water. But they all have one ambition, like AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal: to trounce BJP's prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi in one the most hotly contested seats of the 2014 general election. One of them is even doing so silently.
These are 39 independent candidates in the fray in Varanasi, along with candidates from 38 parties like Shoshit Samaj Dal, Sarva Samaj Kalyan Party, Nirmal India Party, Moulik Adhikar Party, Rashtriya Ambedkar Dal, Gandhi Ekta Party, Yuva Vikas Party and Sanatan Sanskriti Raksha Dal.
Then, of course, there are candidates from the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party apart from the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party.
However, Modi's main challengers are AAP's Arvind Kejriwal and Congress' Ajay Rai.
All this has taken the candidate tally to a staggering 77, the highest for this election so far, according to election officials. Monday is the last date for withdrawing nominations from here.
IANS tracked some of the independent candidates contesting the elections from this ancient city.
One of the independent candidates, P.N. Sriramchandran, claims to be a nephew of late sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.
Sriramchandran told IANS that he is fighting against both Modi and Rahul Gandhi (Amethi) because they are prime ministerial candidates of their respective parties.
"I have always been in public life and feel though Modi and Rahul Gandhi are good persons, their parties are not," Sriramchandran told IANS.
"I want to defeat Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Kejriwal," he added.
While Rajendra Prasad, who calls himself Garib Das, said he is fighting the election for the overall betterment of the country, Swami Lakshminarayanacharya said he wants to make Varanasi India's religious capital.
"Varanasi is a pure land. I want to make it the religious capital of the country. I am not fighting the elections against somebody, but for myself,"
Lakshminarayanacharya told IANS.
Forty-two-year-old Ghanshyam said he is fighting to save the ideology of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.
"I want to guide the country to the right path. The best way of doing so is by defeating Modi," Ghanshyam told IANS.
Another independent candidate - he's the silent one - Ambrose D'Mello, who has come from distant Karnataka, wants to do away with bottled water. He is also contesting in Bangalore Central. A constant face of protest against commercialisation of water in Bangalore, reports said that the traveling book-seller stopped talking 10 years ago as a mark of his protest.
This correspondent made several attempts to reach him through the mobile phone number mentioned in his affidavit, but did not succeed as it was switched off. He also did not reply to an email sent to him.
However, in his Facebook profile, he has made clear his political inclination: "Power politics must go and we need progressive politics."
According to the Uttar Pradesh state election commission, the Varanasi seat could even see voting using the traditional ballot papers if there are more than 63 candidates as an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) can accommodate only 64 options, including the mandatory NOTA button.
If paper ballots are used then the result could be delayed, the officials said.
Interestingly, there are three 'Narendras' also in the fray -- Narendra Nath Dubey Adig of Jan Shakti Ekta Party, Narendra Bahadur Singh of Manav Kalyan Munch and
Narendra, an independent.
National and international attention has been concentrated on this holy city after Modi chose Varanasi as the second seat to contest in the Lok Sabha elections.
Varanasi will vote May 12 in the last round of the 10-phased polls that began April 7. The results will be declared May 16.
(Sreeparna Chakrabarty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)