In a reciprocal move to BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally in Amethi on Monday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will hold a three-km roadshow in Varanasi on May 10.
HT was the first to report on Wednesday that Rahul will campaign on Saturday in the holy city, where Modi is pitted against Ajay Rai of the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal. Varanasi will go to polls on May 12.
Rahul’s road-show is expected to end just before campaigning draws to a close for the ninth and final phase of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Read: In Varanasi, its urban Modi versus rural Kejriwal
There was a strong view within the Congress that Rahul should reciprocate Modi’s rally in Amethi, or the BJP will make political capital out of it. Modi had on April 24, the day he filed his nomination papers, held a 2.5 km road-show in the temple city.
The dominant view suggested that “avoiding” Varanasi will send a wrong signal to the party workers across the country as it was Modi who had broken the tradition of top leaders staying off each other’s turfs.
Before Varanasi, Rahul will campaign for the party candidate in the neighbouring Chandauli constituency. Chandauli was earlier part of Varanasi district but it was carved out as a separate district in 1997. Chandauli, like Varanasi, is located on the Ganga banks and has nearly 15.8 lakh voters.
Congress sources said Rahul’s Chandauli rally was part of a strategy to counter Modi’s “perceived influence” or “popularity wave” in the neighbouring constituencies. Tarun Patel, 29, the Congress candidate from Chandauli, is among the young leaders handpicked by Rahul to contest these elections.
The Congress leadership has decided to campaign aggressively in eastern Uttar Pradesh, also known as Poorvanchal, which accounts for 18 of the 80 seats in the politically important state.
While Rahul will campaign in Domariyaganj, Bansgaon and Deoria on Friday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s election meetings have been planned for Thursday in Kushi Nagar and Salempur.
Congress leaders don't want Kejriwal to emerge as No 1 challenge to Modi in Varanasi