Varanasi: The battle for Varanasi is over. Always heavily loaded in favour of the BJP and its star candidate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress’ decision not to field Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has ended any kind of contest for the seat.
The Congress party has fielded local strongman Ajai Rai who had fougt against Mr Modi in 2014 also and had come third after Arvind Kejriwal securing 75,000 votes. Mr Kejriwal had got approximately 2,09,000 votes and Mr Modi 5,86,000 votes.
The Samajwadi Party, which is fighting the polls in Uttar Pradesh in alliance with the BSP, has this time fielded Congress turncoat Shalini Yadav from the seat. Sources said the effort was aimed at keeping Yadav votes intact.
Sources in the Congress indicated that it had hoped that the SP would withdraw its candidate if Ms Gandhi was fielded and she would contest as a joint Opposition candidate, but there was no such assurance from the other side.
Another reason was that the party realised Ms Gandhi would be bogged down campaigning in Varanasi and would not be able to tour other constituencies in Uttar Pradesh where tough contests are in the offing like Amethi from where Congress President Rahul Gandhi is fighting the BJP’s Smriti Irani.
“Anyway, the aim to fight for the 2022 Assembly polls in the state,” a senior leader said.
However, what might have clinched the decision could have been a veto by the Congress president, whom sources said is against any form of personality-based showdowns.