It's a huge loss of face both Priyanka Vadra and the Congress. After all the bravado of taking Modi by horns, Priyanka Vadra tamely backed off from contesting from Varanasi. The Congress announced its Varanasi candidate Ajay Rai indicating that Priyanka is not contesting against Narendra Modi. Had she contested, she would have got a national stature as a leader even if she loses the elections.
In fact, Priyanka could have taken a lesson or two from AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal. Arvind Kejriwal, a rank outsider for Varanasi like Modi, came and contested from there. Though he was defeated by a wide margin, he stood runner up defeating the candidates of the Congress, SP and the BSP. He polled more than 2.5 lakh votes. This showed that he had managed to capture the imagination of the anti-BJP voters. This has helped him in winning the minority votes later in the Delhi Assembly elections and he became its Chief Minister.
Had Priyanka contested, regardless of her defeat, she would be seen as a daring leader who is willing to take risks. This could have helped in building up an image for herself. But, by deciding not to contest, she has shown herself as a defensive leader. It is usually the aggressive leaders, who capture the imagination of the people. So, Priyanka clearly missed the bus there. What more, even her brother Rahul Gandhi too showed pusillanimity by running away from Amethi to fight from little-known Wayanadu. This robbed him of the chance to project himself as a daring and aggressive leader. His running away from Amethi, his family's burrough for 70 years, is being seen as a sign of weakness.