‘Aap ki kya rai hai,’ asks Varanasi

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Varanasi (UP), March 25 (IANS) Ask anyone in Varanasi about UP Congress President Ajay Rai contesting opposite Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the third consecutive time in a row, and the counter-question is “Aap ki kya rai hai?”

The pun is intentional.

Everyone agrees that there is no contest in Varanasi where the Prime Minister’s popularity has been soaring with every election.

“The Samajwadi Party cleverly gave the seat to the Congress which is now trying to prove a point by improving its previous performances and Ajay Rai was the best it could get as a candidate,” says Narendra Tiwari, a local journalist.

Incidentally, Ajay Rai (54), began his political journey with the BJP’s students’ wing and won three UP assembly terms between 1996 and 2007 on a BJP ticket.

However, in 2009, when he was denied a Lok Sabha ticket by the BJP, he switched to the Samajwadi Party but lost the elections. Three years later, he joined the Congress.

In 2014, when he was pitted against Narendra Modi, he managed to get around 75,000 votes while Modi won with over 56 per cent vote share.

Arvind Kejriwal had come in second with a margin of over 3.5 lakh votes.

In 2019, the battle for Varanasi was a three-way contest between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shalini Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, and Ajay Rai of the Congress.

The Prime Minister won again with a vote share of over 63 per cent while SP’s Shalini Yadav got the second spot with around 18 per cent vote share and Ajay Rai managed to get around 14 per cent votes.

He finished in the third slot both times, losing to the Prime Minister.

A supporter of Ajay Rai, who did not wish to be identified, says: “What is the point in even contesting against the Prime Minister? It would have been more graceful if the opposition had let him get elected unopposed – after all, what can we prove by taking away a few thousand votes?”

Rakesh Banarasi, a local poet, agrees and says that there is no election here but an ‘utsav’, a celebration and we all revel in the process.

“Everyone – from the opposition candidate to its workers are aware of the result and yet they campaign – albeit, half-heartedly. It would have been better if Ajay Rai had used his time to campaign in neighbouring constituencies and help his party put up a decent fight,” the poet said.

The Congress, incidentally, suffered a massive jolt in Varanasi when its former MP Rajesh Mishra joined the BJP on March 5.

R K Shukla, a political analyst, said that at best, Rai contesting in Varanasi can be seen as a move to boost the morale of party cadres but Varanasi has traditionally been a BJP stronghold.

“BJP has been winning every election in Varanasi since 1991, except in 2004 when Rajesh Kumar Mishra of the Congress won. Besides, the result is already well known to everyone. So it does not actually serve any purpose,” Shukla said.



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