No Priyanka vs Modi

The Congress 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 PM in the temple town of Uttar Pradesh.

The ‘will she, won’t she’ suspense finally ended in a sort of anti-climax with the nomination of Rai, who unsuccessfully contested against Modi in 2014 and finished third in the contest after the BJP leader and AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal. In 2014, Modi had won the seat with 5.81 lakh votes. Kejriwal trailed by over 3 lakh votes. Rai polled about 75,000 votes.

The Congress also fielded Madhusudan Tiwari from Gorakhpur against BJP’s Ravi Kishan, a popular Bhojpuri film star.

Speculation on Priyanka 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 PM Modi, said last week: “I will leave you in suspense. Suspense is not always a bad thing.”

Priyanka herself added to the buzz when she said she would abide by her party’s decision on the matter.

The Samajwadi Party had earlier declared Shalini Yadav, who joined that same day, as its candidate from Varanasi.

After years of working in the Congress’s backrooms, Priyanka joined full-time politics in February by taking charge of the eastern UP unit of the party.

Varanasi will go to the polls in the last phase on May 19.

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