PM Modi would have got tough fight from Priyanka Gandhi in Varanasi, feel Congress workers

12:38 PM May 30, 2024 | PTI |

Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have got a tough fight in Varanasi had Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra contested against him as INDIA bloc’s candidate, feel party workers from the temple town.


The prime minister is likely to have a cakewalk in the third consecutive election he is contesting from the holy city of Varanasi, with INDIA bloc’s Ajay Rai apparently not in a position to spring any surprise even this time, they feel.

While Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has given the ticket to a local, Athar Jamal Lari, three Independents are also in the fray.

The INDIA bloc has fielded Congress Uttar Pradesh president Rai against Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Modi from the prestigious seat.

Located on the banks of river Ganga, Varanasi is witnessing a weak resistance to Modi in his bid to score a hat-trick from the prominent Hindu religious city.


People as well as the opposition party workers here say in private that there is virtually no contest because the rivals are no match to the prime minister.

A district Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity that this could have been a good opportunity for the opposition to capitalise on the ”anti-incumbency” faced by Modi on the seat. But Rai failed in the last two chances and there seems to be little chance of expecting ”anything big” from him this time also, he added.

Another leader said had Priyanka Gandhi Vadra contested from Varanasi, it would have become tough for Modi.

Initially, Rai himself had invited Priyanka Gandhi to fight the election against Modi from Varanasi. But, the party decided to field him from the seat again.

Rai stood third in the previous two Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi.

However, Rai disagrees with this view.

”Varanasi will give a shocker to the BJP in the polls,” he said.

On the BSP’s presence in the poll race, he said, ”The BSP presence is nil bataa sannata (zero impact).” Modi had won against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal in 2014 while he had defeated his nearest Samajwadi Party (SP) rival Shalini Yadav in 2019 by a massive margin. Shalini Yadav later crossed over to the BJP.

Rai started from the BJP and was elected as an MLA for five times — three times (in 1996, 2002 and 2007) on a BJP ticket from the Kolasla seat in Varanasi.

Modi, who had in 2014 said he had come to Kashi on the call of ”Maa Ganga”, recently said ”Mother Ganga” has taken him in his lap (apne goad me le liya hai).

Varanasi, an important place in Poorvanchal and which is also in proximity to bordering Bihar, will see voting in the seventh and the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections on June 1.

Modi keeps visiting Varanasi and he conducted a road show with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath here recently.

The opposition camp is actively showing up in Varanasi to give an impression that the prime minister is facing opposition on his turf.

Priyanka Gandhi and SP leader Dimple Yadav held a 1.5-km long joint road show in Varanasi last week to mobilise people in favour of INDIA bloc nominee Rai.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and SP president Akhilesh Yadav held a rally in Varanasi on Tuesday.

Addressing the rally, Rahul Gandhi said Modi will not become the next prime minister, calling it a ”guarantee”.

”I am telling you with a guarantee that after June 4, Narendra Modi ji will not be the prime minister of this country,” Gandhi said.

”In the contest, which is quite intense, between the two, Ajay Rai may win,” he said.

He added that this fight is between the auto-rickshaw drivers of Varanasi, the Banarasi saree makers, farmers, labourers and billionaires.

The rally was also addressed by Akhilesh Yadav.

Modi, who is vigorously touring different parts of the country as part of ‘Abki baar 400 paar’ (over 400 seats this time) call, keeps visiting Varanasi and remains in touch with the constituency even when there is no election.

BJP president J P Nadda made a trip to Varanasi on Monday.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is a regular visitor to the temple town to offer prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath temple, always remains eager to add civic facilities in Varanasi throughout the year.

Nadda attended a meeting of the local weavers held by the UP Institute of Design and Research (UPIDR) under the state government’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) department MSME, on Monday.

UPIDR chairperson Kshipra Shukla said the local weavers and artisans, including those from minority Muslim community, feel indebted to Modi and Adityanath for popularising their trade of Banarasi saree.

Shahid Jamal and his daughter Safina praised Modi for encouraging the Banarsi saree traders.

”Before 2014, nobody visited our Bazardiha-Makhdumpur locality inhabited mostly by Muslims,” Jamal said, adding that under the Modi-Yogi government, the area has seen good roads and the power situation has also improved tremendously.

Local residents Ram Surat Pandey and Sonu Sahni besides Prem Nishad, a boatman, said the civic facilities have improved tremendously here. Roads, street lights and cleanness in the city have improved in the city, they added.

Dairy major Amul has also opened its facility in Varanasi which is adding up to the the income of the milk producers.

Varanasi has five assembly seats — Rohania, Varanasi North, Varanasi South, Varanasi Cantt and Sevapuri. While Rohania has an MLA of the Apna Dal (Sonelal) party, the remaining four have BJP legislators.

Veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi won the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat in 2009. Modi took over from Joshi in 2014 and is in the fray from here for the third consecutive time.


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