Who is Ajay Rai? The Congressman contesting against Narendra Modi
New Delhi, Apr 25: 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 announced its decision to field five-time UP MLA Ajay Rai instead.
This is the second time Congress has chosen Ajay Rai as its candidate for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat. Modi defeated Ajay Rai with a record number of votes in 2014 elections.
Born in Varanasi to Parvati Devi Rai and Surendra Rai, Ajay is known as a local bahubali (strongman). He began his political career as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party's student wing. He won the Legislative Assembly elections from the Kolasla constituency three times in a row between 1996 and 2007 on a BJP ticket.
Rai left the party after being denied a Lok Sabha ticket. He then joined the Samajwadi Party and unsuccessfully contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Subsequently, he won the 2009 Legislative Assembly by-election from the Kolasla constituency as an independent. He then joined the Indian National Congress.
After the Kolasla constituency ceased to exist post-delimitation, he won the 2012 Assembly elections from the newly created Pindra constituency, which comprises a sizeable portion of the former Kolasla constituency. He has also contested the assembly elections as an Independent candidate from Varanasi.
In 2015, Rai was arrested for causing violence and arson in Varanasi during a ban on idol immersion in Ganga.
In this uphill task of defeating Narendra Modi, Congress is once again banking on a grassroots man who has a strong Varanasi connect.