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Digvijaya Singh is front-runner for Varanasi battle, Congress sources

The contest between Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal in Uttar Pradesh’s holy town of Varanasi may become a triangular one with Digvijaya Singh emerging as the possible Congress candidate.

Congress sources confirmed to that Mr. Singh is a front-runner among its choices for the Varanasi battle in next month’s national election, but no decision has been taken yet.

The Congress veteran had said on Monday that he was ready to contest in Varanasi.

“I am willing to contest from Varanasi, but the party has to first give me a ticket,” Mr. Singh told reporters on Monday.

The Congress has released six lists of candidates without mentioning Varanasi, betraying its dilemma over the most high profile poll battle of 2014.

Amid the buzz surrounding Digvijaya Singh, Mr. Kejriwal, who joined the Varanasi poll battle on Tuesday, told, “Let Digvijaya Singh come here if he is ready for the fight.”

Mr. Singh is seen as a candidate who can put up a credible fight against the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, in what many assume is a symbolic battle.

He has been among the Congress’ main Modi-baiters, and has more than once called Sushma Swaraj a better BJP candidate for prime minister.

The 67-year-old has not contested an election since 2003, when he banished himself from active politics after losing massively to the BJP in Madhya Pradesh after a decade in power.

He remained one of the party’s key decision-makers, however, and took charge of many states, including Uttar Pradesh. He is also seen as one of Rahul Gandhi’s advisers.

Mr. Singh’s last date with UP, as general secretary in charge of the state, was a disaster. On his watch, the Congress finished fourth in the 2012 state election despite an aggressive campaign by Mr. Gandhi.

Congress workers in Varanasi are also rooting for a local candidate, Ajay Rai, who has a strong following among upper caste voters. Mr. Rai had finished third in the last election, when he was a Samajwadi Party candidate.

The Congress had won Varanasi in 2004, but lost in 2009 to BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi.

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