Rahul Gandhi, in an interview to The Hindu newspaper, did not rule out the possibility of his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, one of the two Congress general secretaries in charge of Uttar Pradesh, taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi. He did not confirm it either, saying: "I will leave you in suspense."
A blockbuster contest in Varanasi, starring PM Modi vs Congress's headliner Priyanka Gandhi, has been all the buzz for weeks, ever since she dropped a hint during a Ganga boat campaign.
To a direct question on whether his sister would be the Congress candidate in Varanasi, Rahul Gandhi told The Hindu: "I will leave you in suspense. Suspense is not always a bad thing."
So he was not denying it, the interviewer pressed. "I'm not confirming or denying anything," said the Congress president.
Last month, Priyanka Gandhi had steered speculation towards the possibility during an interaction with Congress workers who wanted her to contest from Raebareli, her mother Sonia Gandhi's constituency. When she told the workers about her mother feeling bad she could not come down to meet them, they urged her to fight from the constituency. "Why not Varanasi," she grinned, as reported by news agency IANS.
This was just a day after she told reporters that she was ready to contest the election. "If my party wants me to contest polls then I will definitely do so," the 47-year-old mother of two had told reporters in Amethi, Rahul Gandhi's constituency.
Her husband Robert Vadra also responded to media questions about the Varanasi speculation. "Of course," he said to questions on whether she could be a strong challenge to the Prime Minister. Robert Vadra has been a prime target for the ruling BJP because of investigations against him in land deals and money-laundering allegations.
Priyanka Gandhi's three-day boat campaign ended in Varanasi, which was read by many as another clue that she had big plans for the holy town that voted PM Modi to parliament in 2014.
During her campaign, Priyanka Gandhi has often spoken about what she sees as PM Modi's neglect of Varanasi as he roamed the world.
"I was stunned to hear from people in Varanasi that in five years, the PM didn't get time to go to a single village, visit even one family in his constituency," she said at a rally in Faizabad, accusing PM Modi of running a government indifferent to the poor.
If at all the Congress goes ahead with it, fielding Priyanka Gandhi in Varanasi would be aimed at confining PM Modi, the BJP's top campaigner, to one constituency.
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