The Congress is hoping to regain its lost glory in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the final phase of Uttar Pradesh polls.
While it has fielded candidates on three out of five assembly seats in the PM’s constituency, overall the party is contesting on four of the eight assembly seats in the district. On the remaining four seats, its alliance partner Samajwadi Party is contesting.
“We have no representation on any of the five assembly constituencies under the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha seat but we are focusing on Varanasi as any gain here will send a message of victory across the country,” said Rajesh Mishra, vice-president, Uttar Pradesh Congress.
Mishra is the party candidate from Varanasi South and is banking on the resentment in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cadre over denial of ticket to seven-time MLA Shyamdeo Roy Chaudhary to win the polls.
Abdul Samad Ansari is also been looked upon as a strong candidate from Varanasi North which has a large chunk of Muslim voters.
Anil Srivastava, the party candidate in Varanasi Cantonment, is giving his rivals a good fight, Congress insiders insist.
“We hope to perform well this time. We will win at least three assembly seats in Varanasi,” said Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) spokesman Satyadev Tripathi.
Ajay Rai, who finished third behind Modi and Arvind Kejriwal in the 2014 Lok Sabha election in Varanasi, is the Congress’s only sitting MLA from Varanasi district.
“Rahul Gandhi’s joint road show with CM Akhilesh Yadav had evoked good public response and the mood in our camp is upbeat,” said Tripathi.
While Varanasi has now become synonymous with Modi and inturn BJP, it was once a Congress stronghold during the days of former chief minister late Kamlapati Tripathi in the 1970s and early 1980s.