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Caste will decide Congress candidate in Varanasi

Last updated on: March 29, 2014 21:07 IST

Some in the Congress feel that fielding a Brahmin candidate would be a better choice, but the party leadership is favourably inclined towards a candidate from the Bhumihar community. Anita Katyal reports

Despite the hype over the possible candidature of All India Congress Committee General Secretary Digvijaya Singh for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat, the Congress has narrowed down its choice to local legislator Ajay Rai and former party MP Rajesh Mishra, with the former emerging as a front runner.

While Digvijaya Singh’s name was bandied around as the Congress was keen on fielding a formidable candidate against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, well-placed Congress sources said, the idea was abandoned as it was felt it would not be advisable to have a Thakur candidate.

Digvijaya Singh had told that though he was willing to contest from Varanasi if he was directed by the party to do so, nobody had broached the subject with him.  

The party had also explored the possibility of bringing in a celebrity or some other influential leader but was unable to zero in on anybody. It was, therefore, decided to go in for local candidates.   

Although there is a view in the party that a Brahmin candidate like Rajesh Mishra would be a better choice, the Congress leadership is favourably inclined towards Ajay Rai who belongs to the Bhumihar community. Those pitching for a Brahmin candidate have argued that the community may be willing to look at other options after the BJP denied a ticket to its sitting MP Murli Manohar Joshi.   

“Ajay Rai has considerable influence among the Bhumihars. Moreover, Brahmins and Bhumihars have traditionally voted together but the same cannot be said about Brahmins and Thakurs, who never see eye to eye,” a senior Congress leader told

Mishra had won the Varanasi seat in the 2004 Lok Sabha election but finished fourth in the 2009 poll as the election was converted into a direct battle between BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi and Mukhtar Ansari of the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Rai, who quit Samajwadi Party to join the Congress, had come third in the last election. Congress sources admitted that Modi is way ahead in the race but felt that Rai would be able to give a good fight in view of his local influence.

Although the Congress acknowledges that Varanasi is a politically significant seat, it appears to have virtually given up the fight and is reconciled to the idea of Modi’s victory.

Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters

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Anita Katyal in New Delhi