Congress fields Ajay Rai from Varanasi, ends speculation on Priyanka

The Congress fielded Ajay Rai from Varanasi to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ending speculation on a possible blockbuster electoral duel between Priyanka Gandhi and the PM in the Uttar Pradesh temple town.

The 'will she, won't she' suspense finally ended in a sort of anti-climax with the party nominating Ajay, who unsuccessfully contested against Modi in 2014 and finished third in the contest after the BJP leader and Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal.

The Congress also fielded Madhusudan Tiwari from Gorakhpur against BJP's Ravi Kishan, a popular Bhojpuri film star.

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

Priyanka herself added to the buzz by saying on Tuesday that she would abide by her party's decision on the matter.

Responding to questions on the decision to not field Priyanka Gandhi from Varanasi, Congress spokesperson Ragini Nayak said: "We have a process and system for fielding candidates. We believe the whole state (Uttar Pradesh) and the whole country needs Priyanka Gandhi's leadership. She is the general secretary for a large part of the state. We aim to win maximum seats from that region and voters are impacted by her leadership and simplicity."