Congress president Rahul Gandhi put an end to speculations around Varanasi ticket by fielding Ajay Rai instead of Priyanka Gandhi. In light of this, several opinions and views on it being a sensible or “disastrous” move have emerged over the last 24 hours. Despite Priyanka Gandhi responding to media queries about her wanting to run for parliamentary seat this year by saying that she is ready to do so and will contest if the party decides to field her, party president Rahul Gandhi named Rai as its Varanasi candidate, who came third in the 2014 election.

The announcement came on the day PM Narendra Modi filed his nomination to contest from Varanasi constituency and began a mega road show in the city. It gave rest to all the excitement over speculation of a huge face-off between the PM and Gandhi, who joined Congress effectively only about four months back. To give you some perspective, in 2014, Ajay Rai finished a poor third in Varanasi, with only 75,000 votes. The Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal came second with around two lakh votes. None of them came anywhere close to the Prime Minister’s 5.8 lakh votes.

Too big a risk?

“Not contesting in Varanasi illustrates the inability of members of the Gandhi family to take personal risks. The indecision further hurts them as voters need clarity about leaders’ intent. This indecision opens them to all sorts of criticism, including that of cowardice,” Gilles Verniers, Assistant Professor of Political Science in Ashoka University and Co-Director of the Trivedi Centre for Political Data told SheThePeople.TV.

“This episode also shows the fact that when the family must decide between their safety and the good of the party, they opt for safety first,” he added.

Not contesting in Varanasi illustrates the inability of members of the Gandhi family to take personal risks. – Gilles Verniers

ALSO READ: Priyanka Gandhi Targets Modi’s Absence In Varanasi At A Rally

SMART MOVE TO NOT LET PRIYANKA CONTEST VARANASI

While Verniers staunchly critiqued the Gandhis for not fielding Priyanka for the Varanasi seat, political enthusiast Chetna Mehrotra believes that despite being from a strong political background, it is still a budding stage of her career in electoral politics. “Congress’s ground intelligence must be collating extensive data on the voter preferences for far too long, and when it was finally out that PM Modi’s road show would have unprecedented sea of people, they must have realised that a political princess cannot be thrown to the wolves at such a stage. It will only destroy her morale as well as career. Even Sonia would not have taken such a risk. Taking on the Goliath on his home turf is straight out of fairy tales. Priyanka is real, and it was wise of her to back out of it in time,” she said.

The concentration right now is on BJP and anti-BJP forces and individuals don’t matter. Firstly this was a very wrong time to launch her but Congress has done well by not making her contest election from Varanasi and lose badly. UP elections are totally caste-based and religion-based so in this scenario when caste and religion-based vote banks are already divided between BJP and the SP-BSP alliance then it’s very difficult for Congress to have a chance. – Ranjana Kumari

Centre for Social Research and an unfaltering advocate of Women’s Reservation Bill, Ranjana Kumari also defended Congress decision of fielding Rai instead of Gandhi as she too feels that it would have been too early for Gandhi to contest from a heavyweight constituency against the PM himself. “One really has to come through the mill of politics and get sharpened to be able to claim a seat in parliament. While it is possible in dynasty politics and democracy, but then getting a ticket and winning the seat are two different things.

“As a political scientist I would say the concentration right now is on BJP and anti-BJP forces and individuals don’t matter. Firstly this was a very wrong time to launch her but Congress has done well by not making her contest election from Varanasi and lose badly. UP elections are totally caste-based and religion-based so in this scenario when caste and religion-based vote banks are already divided between BJP and the SP-BSP alliance then it’s very difficult for Congress to have a chance,” she added.

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