New Delhi, Apr. 26:
The Congress on Thursday fielded Ajay Rai from Varanasi to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ending speculation on a possible blockbuster electoral duel between Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the Prime MInister in the temple town of Uttar Pradesh.
The ‘will she, won’t she’ suspense finally ended in a sort of anticlimax with the nomination of 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.
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 by saying on Tuesday that she would abide by her party’s decision on the matter.
The Samajwadi Party on Monday declared Shalini Yadav, who joined the party Monday evening, as its candidate from Varanasi. Prime Minister Modi will file his nomination papers for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat on Friday in the presence of senior NDA leaders, including JD(U) president Nitish Kumar and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
In 2014, Modi won the seat by a margin of over three lakh votes against Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal. While Modi got over 5,81,000 votes, Rai managed about 75,000 votes.