The Congress is no mood to allow BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi a walkover in Varanasi. It is therefore considering a few options to give him a tough time and, possibly, turn the tide.
The party, facing the worst anti-incumbency in its history, plans fielding a candidate palatable to Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, said a senior Congress leader on the condition of anonymity.
Ajay Rai, the five-time Congress MLA from Pindra assembly constituency, Varanasi, could be such a consensus candidate if the party gets SP and BSP on board.
"A celebrity candidate against Narendra Modi could be another option before the Congress if it is not able to get support for its consensus candidate," the leader said.
The Congress, however, would wait for the outcome of AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal's proposed rally in Varanasi on March 25 before deciding on its candidate, the leader said.
Kejriwal is expected to announce his candidature from Varanasi in this rally.
The Congress is also considering tapping into resentment among the Bhumihar and Brahmin communities against the BJP in the region over ticket distribution.
The BJP left Bhumihars, who have has a sizable presence in eastern UP, hurt by not fielding any candidate from their community in the region. They have accused the saffron party of preferring Thakurs over them.
On the other hand, Brahmins are annoyed because senior BJP leader and sitting MP Murli Manohar Joshi, also a Brahmin, had to meekly vacate the seat for Modi.
"A strong Bhumihar Congress candidate could pose a threat to Modi if Brahmins and Muslims support him," said Dharmendra Singh, a senior Congress leader.