‘What About Kashi to Kyoto?’: Trounced Twice, Cong’s Ajay Rai to Take On Modi in Varanasi Again for LS Polls – News18

UP Congress chief and Varanasi candidate for the Lok Sabha polls, Ajay Rai being welcomed by supporters on March 24. (Image: PTI)

Claiming that the people of Kashi will vote for change in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, this is the third consecutive time UP Congress chief Ajay Rai is facing PM Narendra Modi in Varanasi

The Congress has chosen Ajay Rai to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again, from Varanasi in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. After being trounced twice in the prime minister’s bastion, Rai has claimed that the paper leak issue in Uttar Pradesh will help him this time.

In an exclusive interview to News18, Rai, who belongs to Purvanchal in the eastern part of the state, said the people of Kashi will surely vote him to power. On Saturday (March 24), the Congress released its fourth list of 45 candidates.

“What happened to the PM’s promise of transforming Kashi to Kyoto? Kashi is still the same, with heaps of garbage lying unattended, potholes, traffic congestion; most of the low-lying areas along the Ganga and Varuna rivers are in a flood-like situation during the rainy season. Nothing has changed. And people are well aware of it,” said the state Congress chief, who is a former BJP leader and began his career with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

He said while there were some cosmetic changes, much else remained the same in Kashi. “Development is still a distant dream for the people of Kashi, who are struggling every day in want of basic needs,” he added.

But, what went wrong in the 2014 and 2019 polls, when he lost to Prime Minister Modi by big vote margins? “Initially, people thought that PM Modi would come with a magic wand and give a makeover to the entire city. But, in the last 10 years people have realised that they were mistaken and I am sure they will vote for change now,” Rai said, adding that people will choose a local resident instead of an “outsider”.

Rai further said the paper leak issue and unemployment were grave concerns. He slammed the BJP government and said the fate of the youth of Varanasi and the entire state is in a limbo due to the inability of the government in providing employment and conducting fair examinations.

“Our party will surely secure the future of the youth if voted to power,” Rai said, adding that ‘yuva nyay’ is foremost for the Congress, which will ensure that government vacancies are filled up and there is a strict law against paper leaks. He also said, if voted to power, he will promote entrepreneurs aged below 40 and fast-track the development of the city.

A product of the ABVP, Rai is a three-time MLA from Kolasla assembly seat, where he contested on a BJP ticket in 1996, 2002 and 2007. In 2009, he joined the Samajwadi Party but lost the general elections to the BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi. His journey with the Congress began in the 2012 assembly polls, in which he defeated a BJP candidate from Pindra (formerly Kolasla) constituency. He, however, lost from this seat in the 2017 and 2022 state polls.

This is the third consecutive time the Congress is pitting Rai against Modi. He is from the Bhumihar community, which has some influence and political weight in certain pockets of eastern UP. In 2014, Rai secured 75,614 votes compared to the PM’s 5,81,022. In 2019, he bagged 1,52,548 votes and secured the third spot while Modi secured 6,74,664 votes and his nearest rival, an SP candidate Shalini Yadav, got 1,95,159 lakh votes.