New Delhi, Apr 24, 2019 : Priyanka Gandhi Vadra may make her electoral debut in the national election as the Congress candidate in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in what promises to be a blockbuster contest. Discussions are on within the Congress, say top sources.
"The chances are 50-50," Congress sources have told NDTV.
On Monday, the Samajwadi Party named Shalini Yadav, the daughter-in-law of a former Congress lawmaker, as its candidate from Varanasi. It is not clear if Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav and his alliance partner Mayawati will agree to withdraw their candidate for a united opposition fight.
Since Sunday, Priyanka Gandhi had said at least twice that she would contest from Varanasi "if the party asks me".
Priyanka Gandhi as well as her brother Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president, had dropped big hints about her electoral debut with a gigantic Varanasi clash.
The 47-year-old joined politics in January, and was quickly appointed one of the two general secretaries in charge of the Congress campaign in Uttar Pradesh, the most politically vital state with 80 seats.
Priyanka Gandhi was given charge of eastern UP, which includes Varanasi.
Her three-day boat campaign last month ended in Varanasi, which, to many, justified talk that Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had something big planned for the holy town that voted PM Modi to parliament in 2014.
Priyanka Gandhi has said nothing to lid the rumours. During an interaction with Congress workers who wanted her to contest from Raebareli, her mother Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, she said: "Why not Varanasi?"
While campaigning in UP, Priyanka Gandhi has often spoken about what she calls PM Modi’s neglect of Varanasi as he roamed the world. "I was stunned to hear from people in Varanasi that in five years, the PM didn’t get time to go to a single village, visit even one family in his constituency," she has said in rally after rally, accusing PM Modi of running a government indifferent to the poor.
Last week, Rahul Gandhi, to a question on whether he planned to field his sister against PM Modi, told The Hindu newspaper: "I will leave you in suspense. Suspense is not always a bad thing."
Fielding Priyanka Gandhi in Varanasi would be aimed at confining PM Modi, the BJP’s top campaigner, to one constituency.
Pitting Priyanka Gandhi against PM Modi would also be seen as a statement of serious intent from the Congress, and sources said opinion is divided on whether it would make an impact on the overall chances of the party.
In 2014, the Congress had fielded Ajai Rai against PM Modi. He had finished third in the contest, after PM Modi and Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal, who polled around 2 lakh votes - way behind the Prime Minister’s 5.8 lakh.
Nominations for Varanasi can be filed between April 22 and 29; the temple town votes on May 19 in the last phase of the national elections.