New Delhi: The Congress Thursday fielded Ajay Rai from Varanasi to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ending speculation on an electoral duel between Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the PM in the Uttar Pradesh’s temple town.
The suspense over Priyanka’s candidature ended in an anticlimax with the party nominating Rai, who unsuccessfully contested against Modi in 2014 and finished third in the contest after the BJP leader and Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal. While Modi had got over 5,81,000 votes Rai managed about 75,000 votes.
The Congress also fielded Madhusudan Tiwari from Gorakhpur against BJP’s Ravi Kishan, a popular Bhojpuri film star.
Speculation on Priyanka Gandhi making her electoral debut from Varanasi had been rife for the past few weeks and was fuelled after Congress president Rahul Gandhi, to a question on whether he planned to field his sister against Modi, said last week, “I will leave you in suspense. Suspense is not always a bad thing.”
Priyanka Gandhi herself added to the buzz saying Tuesday that she would abide by her party’s decision on the matter.
Responding to questions on the decision to not field Priyanka Gandhi from Varanasi, Congress spokesperson Ragini Nayak said, “We have a process and system for fielding candidates. We believe the whole country needs Priyanka Gandhi’s leadership. She is the general secretary for a large part of the state. We aim to win maximum seats from that region and voters are impacted by her leadership.”
The Samajwadi Party Monday declared Shalini Yadav, who joined the party Monday evening, as its candidate from Varanasi.
Varanasi constituency will go to the polls in the last phase, May 19. With the announcement of the two seats, the Congress has named candidates for 424 seats in all.
Prime Minister Modi will file his nomination papers for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat Friday in the presence of senior NDA leaders, including JD(U) president Nitish Kumar and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.