No Modi vs Priyanka battle in Varanasi as Congress fields Ajay Rai

FE Online
ajay rai, congress varanasi candidate, priyanka gandhi

Priyanka Gandhi not to contest from Varanasi! A much anticipated mouth-watering contest between Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi this Lok Sabha election will not happen after all. Ending weeks of speculation and suspense around the Congress general secretary’s candidature, the party on Thursday announced Ajay Rai as its pick for the temple city this general election.

Priyanka created a huge buzz around her candidature from Varanasi when she expressed her desire to take on Modi from his constituency. When questioned, Congress president Rahul Gandhi too refused to give a definite response to the matter. “Let there be suspense. You will know soon,” he had told reporters a few weeks ago, giving rise to speculation that Priyanka, who has focussed her attention attacking PM Modi in the past few days, could take the fight to the BJP bastion.

The party’s decision comes on a day Varanasi is decked up to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi who will hold a 7-km roadshow in a show of strength ahead of filing his nomination on Friday. The PM’s itinerary includes visits to prominent temples and also an aarti at the Dashashwamedha Ghat. Varanasi goes to polls on May 19 in the last phase of elections.

Who is Ajay Rai?

Congress candidate Ajay Rai had unsuccessfully contested in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and ended third behind Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal. Ironically, Rai cut his teeth as a politician as a member of the BJP’s student wing ABVP and eventually went on to gain victory in the UP Assembly elections from the Kolasla constituency three times in a row between 1996 and 2007 on a BJP ticket.

However, Rai joined the Samajwadi Party after the BJP denied him a ticket in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. He eventually lost from the SP ticket in the same election.

The same year, he contested the 2009 Legislative Assembly by-election from the Kolasla constituency as an independent and won. He then joined the Indian National Congress.