After fuelling much speculation, the Congress party has announced that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will not contest for the Varanasi seat against Prime Minister Narendra Modi this election. The Congress on Thursday named as its Varanasi candidate Ajay Rai, who had placed third in the 2014 election. This effectively ends all the speculation about a giant clash in the temple town. The party had kept in suspense the possibility of Vadra taking on Modi, but it fizzled out at the last moment. By refusing to field her, the Congress has made it easy for Modi to retain the Varanasi seat.
On Monday, the SP announced the name of Shalini Yadav as its candidate for the seat. As things stand, Varanasi could prove to a no contest with anti-BJP votes set to be split between the SP and Congress candidates. Varanasi goes to polls on 19 May. However, the decision of the Congress not to field Vadra is a major loss of face for the grand old party. It shows that the party is not willing to directly confront Modi in his own turf. She stood a good chance of making it a fascinating contest. The Congress cadres across the country, especially in UP, could have been galvanized if she had contested against Modi. With this decision, the Congress has lost a big opportunity to win the perception war against the BJP. Their decision of not to field Priyanka Gandhi Vadra against Modi may come back to haunt them in the future.