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Poll date: 17 April

Bangalore Central

Key candidates: PC Mohan, BJP I V Balakrishnan, AAP I Rizwan Arshad, INC

Veeresh Takkalaki, a 28-year-old who sells devotional-song CDs in Bangalore, is one of the many young men milling about on the road next to the Dattatreya Temple, waiting for the arrival of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate P.C. Mohan, the sitting MP. Wearing a scarf with distinctive BJP markings, including the party symbol of the lotus, Takkalaki is campaigning for the party “so (Narendra) Modi can be prime minister".

Takkalaki says he has voted before, for the state assembly election from Gulbarga district, where he was living. He voted for individuals, not parties. This time too, he is voting for Modi, the person.

The battle lines have been drawn in the fight for the Bangalore Central constituency.

The constituency, carved out in time for the 2009 Lok Sabha election, has eight assembly segments, including CV Raman Nagar, Shivajinagar and Shantinagar. It has around 1.9 million voters, with about 900,000 voters estimated to be below the age of 35.

The contest in this Bangalore constituency will be keenly watched, given that the electoral district is a microcosm of India’s $118 billion (around 7 trillion) information technology (IT) industry.

The key candidates—Mohan, the Congress’ Rizwan Arshad and the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) V. Balakrishnan, a former chief financial officer of the technology and consulting firm Infosys Ltd—are conscious of this. But surprisingly, none of them seem to be making an impact on social media. Balakrishnan is on Twitter, but does not seem to have garnered the same kind of following as the Congress’ Nandan Nilekani, another former Infoscion, who is fighting it out from Bangalore South.

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P.C. Mohan files his nomination papers. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

“See, all these years, elections were fought on three things. Money power, muscle power and cash—we have to break that jinx," says Balakrishnan. He adds: “People want changes because they think both the parties have not done anything for them. And also majority of the people don’t even know the current MP. I don’t know what it means. So we have an even field. I am also new. He (Mohan) is also new. So, it’s a good fight to have."

Over the past few weeks, the city has witnessed a number of rallies and padyatras by Balakrishnan. He seems to be targeting the educated, middle-class demographic, having conversations with them on a regular basis as he tries to counter the fact that people are largely ignorant or unsure about AAP.

It’s another matter that he seems to be battling heavy odds, somewhat like Arshad. Several voters knew little about any of the candidates. Mohan seems to be slightly ahead of Balakrishnan and Arshad.

Arshad is optimistic though. “I’ve been going around the constituency over the last 10 days, meeting voters," he says in a phone interview. “I’m pretty confident of coming through with a big margin—people expected someone who is from among them to stand up and represent them. P.C. Mohan does not fit the bill—the last five years he has been an absentee in his constituency. He has been mum on all the issues facing Bangalore—most notably the garbage issue which brought the entire city to a standstill. I come from a middle-class background—people want a common man and I truly represent that.

“AAP has not fielded a common man; Balakrishnan is a former CFO and has a net worth of 200 crore (approximately). How can a man worth 200 crore understand what the common man needs?" asks Arshad.

For AAP especially, a profound sense of irony seems to be emerging—have they truly been able to connect with the aam aadmi in Bangalore Central, the very class whose rights they claim to champion?

Forty-five-year-old Govindraj, who sells mats woven out of coconut leaves, says he has voted for the Janata Dal and the Congress in past elections but will vote for the BJP this time.

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Asked about the charges against BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on the 2002 Gujarat riots, Govindraj says, “Naaligege moolle illa (The tongue does not have bones). People can say whatever they want."

“Let us see. Let us try this time. I am happy with what they are doing. We have seen BJP, we have seen Congress. This time, let us try out for Aam Aadmi (Party)," says Kamal Khan, who is in his 20s and runs a small roadside stall selling rotis. “Our only hope from the Aam Aadmi (Party) is that they bring down inflation."

“I think it’s important to give the alternative a chance—which is why I would encourage more people to vote for AAP. Also, you need more candidates like (Nandan) Nilekani or Balakrishnan who come from corporate backgrounds," says an oncology specialist who lives in the Brunton Road area, but did not wish to be named.

There are women, young and old, squatting on the pavement outside the Dattatreya Temple in the north-central part of Bangalore. The temple road is like a boundary between two Parliamentary constituencies. On one side is Bangalore Central. On the other, Bangalore North.

He comes in a white SUV, getting out of the car to calls of Bharat Mata ki Jai. A band lounging against the temple wall, waiting for him, starts playing the drums. They will follow the route of his padyatra.

Bringing up the rear of the small procession of about 200 people is a vehicle with boards showing a smiling Mohan. A picture of Modi dwarfs Mohan’s.

Follow our special coverage of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls on Flipboard.

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