Published On: Wed, Apr 9th, 2014


The Congress will field local man Ajay Rai against the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and AAP CHIEF Artvind Kejriwal  in Varanasi in what is already the most watched contest in these general elections. Mr Rai, a legislator in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, will take on  Mr Modi, and kejriwal

Announcing Mr Rai’s candidacy , the Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “Ajay Rai is connected with grassroots, has fought a number of elections successfully, is currently a sitting Congress MLA and is, in the party’s opinion, the best candidate in Varanasi.” There had been much speculation on who the Congress would pick to contest against Mr Modi; the name of general secretary Digvijaya Singh did the rounds and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma had said he would happily contest against Mr Modi. The party was also assessing all along whether to field a strong local candidate who can actually garner support and make it a tough fight, and Mr Rai was seen as the forerunner.

“The party has taken a comprehensive view and chosen a grassroots leader,” Mr Surjewala said today. Mr Rai is a former BJP man, who had contested the Lok Sabha election in 2009 as a Samajwadi Party candidate against the BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi, who won. Mr Rai had come in third behind the BSP’s Mukhtar Ansari.  He later contested the UP elections as a Congressman and is the sitting MLA from the Pindra seat in Varanasi.

The Congress has fielded Madhusudan Mistry, a senior party leader seen as close to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, against Mr Modi in the second seat he is contesting – Vadodara in Gujarat.
But it is the Varanasi contest that is grabbing most attention, not least because of Mr Kejriwal’s dramatic declaration that he will fight to defeat Mr Modi there.

Varanasi votes on May 12, the last of nine phases of polling in these general elections. The first phase was held yesterday.

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