As the battle of the ballot in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections intensifies in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is yet to reveal its cards on the two politically significant seats of Varanasi and Lucknow. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a re-election from Varanasi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is in the fray from Lucknow.
While Rajnath Singh will file his papers from Lucknow on April 16, the Prime Minister is likely to file his nomination from Varanasi on April 26. Polling in Lucknow will be held in the fifth phase on May 6 and in Varanasi in the seventh and last phase on May 19.
Notwithstanding the high stakes involved in these seats, particularly in Varanasi, the Congress has yet to name its candidates. Even as there has been no official communication on her candidature, the name of Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, has been making the rounds as a possible candidate from Varanasi.
Sources in the Congress party are tightlipped on the issue as it is common knowledge in party circles in Lucknow that matters concerning the Gandhi family are decided by them.
Even as the UP party leaders preferred to remain non-committal on the subject of Priyanka contesting from Varanasi, the shifting of former Congress MP Rajesh Mishra to Salempur has set the rumour mills churning. Mishra’s name was in the list of the seven Congress candidates declared by the party on Saturday.
The names of the party candidates from Bhadohi (RamakantYadav), Basti (Raj Kishore Singh), Mohanlal Ganj-R (RK Chaudhri), Jaunpur (Devrat Mishra), Chandauli (Shiv Kanya Kushwaha, wife of former BSP minister Babu Singh Kushwaha) and Gonda (Krishna Patel, who is the president of Apna Dal) were also announced on Saturday.
A former MP from Varanasi, Mishra contested as a Congress candidate in 2004. Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi won in 2009 and in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Ajay Rai of the Congress was routed by (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi.
Since the election in Varanasi will be held in the last phase and notification for the same will be issued on April 22, the Congress seems to be in no hurry to announce its candidate.
Similar is the situation in Lucknow where the Congress is yet to name its candidate to take on Rajnath Singh. Former minister Jitin Prasada was touted as a probable candidate, largely on account of him being a Brahmin, to take on Rajnath, a Thakur. This was after Jitin was named the Congress candidate from Dhaurhara, the seat won by him in 2009. Jitin, however, was reluctant to contest from Lucknow. He will contest from Dhaurhara.
Filing of nominations for Lucknow, which goes to polls on May 6, closes on April 18.
Incidentally, the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal ‘mahagathbandhan’ has also not named its candidates from Varanasi and Lucknow. Both these seats have been allotted to the Samajwadi Party.