Varanasi decision was Priyanka’s own: Congress - GulfToday

Varanasi decision was Priyanka’s own: Congress

Priyanka Gandhi

Resmi Sivaram

Priyanka Gandhi decided for herself not to contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi, a Congress leader known as close to the Nehru family said on Friday.

Sam Pitroda, chief of the Overseas Congress who is credited with ushering in India’s telecom revolution during the times of Rajiv Gandhi, said: “It (not contesting from Varanasi) was Priyankaji’s decision, she has other responsibilities. She thought rather than concentrating on one seat she should focus on the job she has at hand.

So, that decision was her and she decided it.” The Congress allowed a walkover for Modi in Varanasi by fielding Ajay Rai, observers feel. The decision announced on Thursday came after several days of trumpeting that Priyanka Gandhi will fight the PM in his seat.

Ajay Rai had garnered around 75,000 votes and ended in the third place in 2014, while Modi won with a margin of over 350,000 votes against Arvind Kejriwal.

Speculation on Priyanka Gandhi 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 Modi, said last week, “I will leave you in suspense. Suspense is not always a bad thing.” Priyanka joined full-time politics in February as in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, hoping to change the party’s fortunes in the ongoing Lok Sabha election. Her entry as a candidate was ruled out by sources close to her right in the beginning. For the simple reason that she was keen to be cautious.

If caution is key to her decisions, then contesting against the powerful prime minister was out of question.

The sources also say Sonia Gandhi had insisted that Priyanka should not debut as a loser. She has stirred great excitement in Congress rank and file with her entry, often drawing comparisons with Indira Gandhi, the greatest Indian mass leader of all times. Like Indira, she was an instant hit across India, be it the north or the south.

The Congress leadership would like her to be in Parliament, indeed.

But she shouldn’t lose an attempt. Varanasi was hard for the Congress, especially with the SP-BSP-RLD combine keen on fielding its own candidate. The proposal now is for Priyanka to contest in Amethi if Rahul Gandhi vacates that seat after winning in Wayanad, Kerala.

In Varanasi, Ajay Rai was in no mood to concede the fight and claimed he had on hand key issues with which he can hit Modi. “My main issue will be the broken promises of Narendra Modi to Varanasi’s people and how the city is totally dug up. The Ganga has not been cleaned. The public knows it all,” he said.

“I had first made the appeal for Priyanka Gandhi to contest from Varanasi. I am grateful that the party has reposed its faith in a party worker like me to take on Modi again. Priyanka Gandhi’s support and encouragement, as the eastern UP in-charge is with me in this fight and she will campaign for me.” Narendra Modi on Friday submitted his application from Varanasi. The constituency will vote on May 19.

The Congress on Friday intensified its campaign in the national capital with former Union Minister Ajay Maken and Jay Prakash Agarwal holding meetings in several places across the city. Maken, who is contesting from the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat, interacted with the people of his constituency at Sat Nagar, East Punjabi Bagh, Greater Kailash-2, Pahargunj, East of Kailash, Mehrauli Road, Adhchini and Manakpura.

Interacting with the morning walkers of East Punjabi Bagh, the Congress leader accused the Narendra Modi government of bringing business and economic activity to a standstill.

Highlighting the incident of Mayapuri, where a scuffle broke out between the sealing drive team and the businessmen, Maken said, “During my tenure as Cabinet Minister I designated 22 industrial areas, notified 3,000 roads and made 170 amendments to the Master Plan to protect the trader community and business in general.” Addressing the residents of Satnagar, he emphasized that business was protected and it prospered during the Manmohan Singh’s administration.

Highlighting the issue of inflation, he said, household expenditure has increased manifold — a gas cylinder that used to cost Rs 380 under the UPA regime is now costing Rs 950-1,000.