In a bid to pose a formidable challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi, the opposition bloc in India is contemplating the inclusion of political heavyweights in its lineup, as per sources reported by NDTV. The discussions took place a day after the opposition group convened in Delhi to address the crucial issue of seat-sharing.
Varanasi, a stronghold of the BJP since 1991 (except for 2004), has consistently voted for the party, sending PM Modi to the Lok Sabha in 2014 and 2019 with a mandate exceeding 60 percent.
Sources reveal that two prominent names have emerged as potential contenders for challenging PM Modi in Varanasi – Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Nitish Kumar, a former ally turned rival of the BJP, is one of the founding leaders of the opposition bloc. Although he has been touted as a potential Prime Ministerial candidate in the past, he has consistently denied such ambitions. Recently, posters seemingly supporting him in that role appeared in Patna, raising speculation about his candidacy. The JDU, however, disassociated itself from the posters.
On the other hand, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has not contested an election yet, has been proposed as a potential candidate. In 2019, there were discussions about her contesting from Varanasi, but the Congress fielded Ajay Rai instead. Reports suggest that Mamata Banerjee, the chief of Trinamool, proposed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s name, along with suggesting Mallikarjun Kharge as a possible Prime Ministerial candidate for the opposition bloc.
Another contender being considered is Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal. The Delhi Chief Minister had previously contested against PM Modi in Varanasi during the 2014 elections, finishing second.
Despite these potential candidates, challenging PM Modi in Varanasi poses a significant challenge, given the BJP’s robust election-winning machinery and the success of the “Modi factor” in recent state elections where the party chose not to field a chief ministerial candidate, relying instead on PM Modi as the face of its campaign. The opposition is yet to finalize a common candidate for the upcoming elections.
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