Why Congress opted for Varanasi and SP for Khajuraho | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Why Congress opted for Varanasi and SP for Khajuraho

BySunita Aron
Feb 23, 2024 06:25 PM IST

The BJP high command has appointed Mohan Yadav in Madhya Pradesh to neutralise the influence of the two Yadav chieftains, Akhilesh Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav

Lucknow: The seat-sharing pact between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress has thrown up surprises with the Congress opting for the toughest Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh and the Samajwadi Party (SP) picking the untested Khajuraho parliament seat in Madhya Pradesh.

Varanasi is the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP is determined to ensure a landslide victory for him (Representative photo)
Varanasi is the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP is determined to ensure a landslide victory for him (Representative photo)

The SP is contesting 63 and the Congress 17 seats in UP while the former is a tiny partner in Madhya Pradesh with only one in its kitty. There are 29 Lok Sabha seats in MP.

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Varanasi is the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP is determined to ensure a landslide victory for him.

Similarly, the BJP high command has appointed Mohan Yadav in Madhya Pradesh to neutralise the influence of the two Yadav chieftains- Akhilesh Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav- who are leading the opposition bloc -Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) in UP and Bihar respectively.

Interestingly, the MP CM made his first visit to Yadav dominated Azamgarh in UP recently where he made an emotional pitch saying his family had a 400-year-old relation with the district. Both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav have been elected as MPs from Azamgarh. The SP has not as yet announced the party’s candidate from here. In the 2022 by-poll, BJP had snatched the seat from SP, defeating family member Dharmendra Yadav.

Why Congress pitched for Varanasi

Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh Avinash Pandey explains: “It’s an ideological battle in Varanasi. We know it’s tough but then it’s symbolic and sends a clear message to the people as well as party workers.”

Apparently, the UPCC chief Ajay Rai will be contesting from here. He earlier contested as Congress nominee in both 2014 and 2019 and as SP candidate in 2009.

When asked Pandey said, “The name would be known shortly but Ajay Rai is gutsy, you really need an indomitable spirit and commitment to fight against the country’s prime minister.”

Now the track record: In 2019 Ajay Rai polled 14.38 % votes as against 63.62 % cast in favour of Modi. SP ended as a runner up polling 18.40 percent votes.

In 2014, when Aam Admi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal had dared to challenge Narendra Modi on his turf, Ajay Rai had ended third with barely 66386 votes. The BJP had polled 56.37 % votes and AAP 20.30 % votes.

In 2009, Ajay Rai as SP nominee had polled 18.61 % votes with BSP’s Mukhtar Ansari ending as runner up with 27.94 % votes against Dr Murli Manohar Joshi of BJP, polling 32.50 % votes.

However, the city is seemingly upbeat after the opening of Ram temple, the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor and commencement of puja in the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi mosque.

Aware of the challenge that lies before him in the elections, Rai is gearing up for what many describe as a ‘lost battle.’

Why SP in Khajuraho?

Senior Party leader Rajendra Choudhury says, “We have a vote base and active cadre to contest the seat that lies on the borders of UP.”

It was the Congress which had a direct fight with the BJP in 2009, 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections with the two UP parties SP leaving hardly any mark.

However, in the recent assembly elections, the SP had polled 15.47% and 10.79 % votes in two of its segments – Chandla and Bahoriband.

In fact, former BJP MLA RD Prajapati had quit the party and joined SP on the eve of assembly elections. He was upset with the party denying him ticket.

Also, the SP had once planned to set up its party office in Khajuraho under its plan to expands its base in the state where its performance has often been rated as second best after UP as it picked up highest number of 7 assembly seats in 2003.

SP has been vying for a national party status and has picked up seats in Rajasthan in the past and has one MLA in Maharashtra assembly.

It’s also a moral victory for Akhilesh Yadav who was not only denied seats but ridiculed as ‘Who’s Akhilesh Vakhilesh’ by the Congress chief ministerial candidate Kamalnath when he had asked for some as member of INDIA bloc in the 2023 assembly elections. He too had retorted and described Congress as a compulsive betrayer.’

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