Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has always maintained his unwillingness to back tainted-politicians. This is evident as he is not keen to push Ajai Rai, the incumbent Congress MLA from Pindra in Varanasi. Rai, who was in the fray in the 2014 Lok Sabha election against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is reportedly his party’s best hope in Varanasi in ongoing UP Assembly elections 2017. Polling will be held in Pindra along with other 7 assembly seats of Varanasi in March 8 during the seventh and last phase. Congress has wanted to hold joint rallies but two planned roadshows have been cancelled during the last 10 days due to Akhilesh’s reluctance, accoording to The Indian Express report. This has forced Congress Vice President Rahul gandhi to address public meetings alone.
The joint roadshow of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav in Varanasi, scheduled for yesterday, was postponed. AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik had said the roadshow has been postponed due to some “unavoidable reasons”, with elaborating. The joint roadshow of Congress vice-president Gandhi and SP president and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yadav, scheduled for February 11, had earlier been postponed in view of large numbers of pilgrims visiting the temple town on the occasion of Ravidas Jayanti. The roadshow was later scheduled for February 27. Wasnik said the revised date of the joint roadshow would be finalised soon. A senior Congress leader said Gandhi would address a public meeting in the Pindra Assembly constituency of Varanasi district on March 2 in favour of Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance candidate Ajay Rai.
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Rai was arrested in October 2015 in connection with a case of violence and arson during a protest rally by seers in Varanasi who were demanding permission for immersion of idols in Ganga. Varanasi Police had then booked Rai under National Security Act. The NSA was set aside by Allahabad High Court later and he was granted bail in April 2016 — after almost six months in jail. Having planned a joint road-show with Akhilesh twice in the past in Varanasi, Congress and Samajwadi Party ostensibly failed to reach a consensus on the route. For the record, the reasons were logistics — from not getting permission for the route to security considerations. But sources confirm that key to the cancellation was, most probably, the CM’s reluctance to campaign in favour of Rai in Pindra, the report says.
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According to the report, Samajwadi Party District President Piyush Yadav also expressed ignorance over the exact reason for the cancellation. “There are various factors involved considering the security of the leaders including their availability as well as routes but we are not directly involved in them,” he said. Confirming the joint roadshow on March 4, he said, “We have just got confirmation. The show is likely to start from the police lines from where the rath would be ready and end at BHU near the statue of Malviya ji.”
Of the eight Assembly seats in Varanasi, Congress and SP are contesting four seats each and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is top of the target of both Rahul and Akhilesh.