Narendra Modi could be in for a tough fight in Varanasi with the Congress declaring its resolve to put up a formidable candidate against the BJP’s PM nominee in the Lok Sabha polls and ruling out support to AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal.
Congress leadership has already shortlisted three candidates for Varanasi to take on Modi and the final choice will be announced soon.
“There are many names under consideration for Varanasi seat. Congress will field a strong candidate and we will fight with full strength,” party spokesman and Union Minister Anand Sharma told reporters. To a question as to why Congress is not announcing its candidate and whether it could support Kejriwal’s candidature, Sharma said, “Is there any dearth of candidates? It will be declared in the party list in time. The question does not arise (of supporting Kejriwal). Congress will fight the battle on its own strength. Congress is a national party and will fight on the ground.”
A senior party leader said on the condition of anonymity that the party will put up “strong” candidates against Modi in both Varanasi and the Gujarat seat from which he would be contesting.
On Tuesday, the AICC had urged all like minded parties to support its nominee in Varanasi in the “battle against communalism”. “Do not be surprised if Varanasi witnesses a similar spectacle as Ghaziabad from where BJP chief Rajnath Singh ran away after Congress fielded Raj Babbar,” party spokesman Randeep Surjewala had said.
The remarks of Surjewala came two days after party General Secretary Madhusudan Mistry had declared that the Congress will give a “good fight” to Modi on Varanasi seat and did not rule out fielding an ‘outsider’.
Among the local candidates, the names of Rajesh Mishra and Ajay Rai are doing the rounds. A section in the Congress wants an influential leader pitched against Modi, while others want a celebrity to be fielded against him.
A section views that after the exit of BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi from the electoral contest from the holy city, the Congress fielding a Brahmin candidate could be advantageous.
Senior Congress leader Anil Shastri in a tweet had said “If BSP & SP are serious on defeating Modi from Varanasi, theyalongwith Congress should put up a joint candidate against him”. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has declared that he was ready to take on Modi in Varanasi but linked his final call to the people’s approval there.