Following recommendations from its Uttar Pradesh’s unit, Congress has started rethinking about selection of Varanasi in the list of 16 constituencies chosen for primaries across the country.
Two constituencies from UP — Sant Kabir Nagar and Varanasi — were selected as part of the process to select Lok Sabha candidates. While election process has started in Sant Kabir Nagar, the process was due to start from February 19 in Varanasi. But, some of the senior party leaders from the state have reportedly requested for change of Varanasi as one of the primaries.
Reason cited by these leaders for their recommendation is that Sant Kabir Nagar and Varanasi, both are part of eastern UP and thus other constituency should be selected from west UP.
According to sources, Sambhal has been recommended, but final decision would be made by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and in-charge of primaries experiment Ghulam Nabi Azad.
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However, local Congress leaders in Varanasi allege that some of the senior leaders are trying to shift primaries pilot from Varanasi in a bid to ensure entry of local party MLA Ajay Rai in the list of probable candidates. Though, Rai had joined party in 2010, he is still regarded as an “outsider” and is yet not acceptable by large number of cadre, who would be voters for the primaries.
Rai has been three time BJP MLA from Kolasala Assembly constituency, but had contested 2009 Lok Sabha election on Samajwadi party ticket. He had then won Assembly bye-election from Kolasala in 2009 as an independent candidate and later in 2010 had joined Congress. He had won 2012 Assembly election as Congress candidate.
Another faction within the party in the constituency, is supporting former Congress MP Rajesh Mishra. Mishra had lost last election to BJP candidate Murli Manohar Joshi. Both the lobbies are so strong that some of the senior leaders fear that if primaries takes place in Varanasi then it might not be as peaceful as expected.