Congress pits Ajay Rai against Narendra Modi in Varanasi

Lucknow: The Congress on Thursday announced the candidature of former MLA Ajay Rai from Varanasi to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the prestigious constituency.

The decision ends speculation that Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi may be fielded in Varanasi.

Ajay Rai had also contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi and had ranked third with over 75,000 votes, behind AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal.

A Bhumihar by caste, Ajay Rai wields considerable influence over his community in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Party leaders say he is the best bet for the Congress in the region.

The Congress also announced Madhusdan Tiwari as its candidate from Gorakhpur.