Till today, speculation was rife about Priyanka making her electoral debut in Varanasi, in what promised to be a blockbuster contest.

No Priyanka vs Modi, Congress’ Ajay Rai to Contest From Varanasi

Ending weeks of speculation about a potential heavyweight battle between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi in Varanasi, the party on Thursday, 25 April, announced its decision to field five-time UP MLA Ajay Rai instead.

Rai had contested in Varanasi against Modi and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal in 2014 as well. Back then, Modi had secured 5,81,022 votes as opposed to Kejriwal’s 2,09,238. Rai had only managed 75,614 votes.

Till today, speculation was rife about Priyanka making her electoral debut in Varanasi, in what promised to be a blockbuster contest.

"The chances are 50-50," Congress sources had told NDTV, revealing that discussions within party senior leaders were on.

Sources quoted in the report, however, had also revealed that Priyanka's mother Sonia Gandhi had reservations about sending her to battle in the very first election after she joined politics.

Speculation on Priyanka making her political debut from Varanasi was fuelled further after Congress president Rahul Gandhi, to a question on whether he planned to field his sister against PM Modi, had said last week, "I will leave you in suspense. Suspense is not always a bad thing."

Congress’decision to field Rai appears to be a nod to Modi’s appeal among voters in Varanasi, considered to be a bastion of the prime minister.

Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala made the announcement about Rai on Thursday. He also announced that Madhusudan Tiwari will be the Congress candidate from Gorakhpur.

(With inputs from ANI, PTI)