No Priyanka vs Modi showdown as Congress fields Ajay Rai from Varanasi Lok Sabha seat

Priyanka, who was appointed as national general secretary of the Congress a few months ago, had fuelled the speculation at a meeting with party workers at Rae Bareli in March.

Published: 25th April 2019 12:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th April 2019 07:34 AM   |  A+A-

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waves at supporters during an election campaign roadshow in support of party candidate Shiv Sharan Kushwaha (to Priyanka’s right) in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday | PTI

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Putting speculations to rest on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s candidature from Varanasi, the Congress on Thursday announced former party MLA Ajay Rai as the candidate against PM Narendra Modi.

The decision came hours before Modi’s massive show of strength in the holy city, giving a handle to the BJP to attack Priyanka.  Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched a scathing attack, saying the “myth around her stands eroded as she chickened out...”    

READ MORE | PM Modi to file nomination on April 26, security beefed up in wake of roadshow today

The party, however, said that it was all media speculation and the party, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi, always maintained that decision on the candidate from Varanasi will be taken at the right time. Party sources said there was a lot of thinking in the party if Priyanka should be fielded from Varanasi and the overall assessment was that this contest would limit her to only one constituency while she as general secretary, East, has bigger responsibilities.

“Congress president has carved out a bigger role for her in UP for now and long term. The focus as of now is to capitalize on her charisma for improving the party’s winning chances in seats where there are strong candidates,” said a senior party functionary.

There is also the assumption that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and party chief Rahul Gandhi were not in favour of her making the debut in electoral politics from a seat where chances of winning are bleak and it could end with her only giving a tough fight to PM.

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Rai, a local strong man and five times MLA joined the party in 2012 after stints in the BJP and the SP, contested against Modi in 2014 elections. Being touted as a sacrificial lamb, he came third after Modi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and garnered only 75,614 votes.

Eyeing Bundelkhand: 2 roadshows in 2 days

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a roadshow in Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand on Thursday, the second in two days in the region. Bundelkhand has four Lok Sabha seats - Jalaun, Jhansi, Hamirpur and Banda

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