The Congress has finally put to rest speculation that Priyanka Gandhi will contest from Varanasi by announcing Ajay Rai as their candidate for the Lok Sabha seat against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rai is no stranger to the Varanasi constituency. A resident of the town, he was fielded by the Grand Old Party against Modi in the 2014 general elections too.
A five-time MLA from Uttar Pradesh, Rai has his roots in the saffron party as he began his political career as a member of the BJP's youth wing.
He fought his first assembly elections in 1996 and won the Kolasla seat on a BJP ticket. He left the BJP in 2009 after the party denied him a ticket to contest the general elections from Varanasi. He later contested from the seat as a Samajwadi Party candidate. However, he didn't taste success in the elections.
In 2012, Rai contested in the assembly elections and won from Pindra seat representing the Congress. But he lost against Modi in the Lok Sabha elections in Varanasi two years later, finishing third with just 75,614 votes.
According to myneta.info website, Rai has nine criminal cases against him, including three charges relating to attempt to murder.
Varanasi will go to the polls in the last phase on May 19. The results of the Lok Sabha elections will be announced on May 23.