The Bharatiya Janata Party is all set to field former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti against Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli, and is considering fielding its Rajya Sabha MP and popular TV actor Smriti Irani against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi.
The announcement could be made on Friday after party president Rajnath Singh returns to the capital from Lucknow, party sources said.
Since Bharti has already been announced as the candidate from Jhansi, the sources indicated that a local backward class leader would replace her if she moved to Rae Bareli for the high-profile contest.
Bharti’s aides, however, said they had no information about such a move, and stressed that they were working for her in Jhansi.
If Bharti moves to Rae Bareli, it would be the second time Sonia will face a high-profile BJP candidate. The BJP had fielded senior leader Sushma Swaraj against Sonia when she made her electoral debut from Bellary in Karnataka in 1999. Although Sonia won, Swaraj ensured it was a tough contest from a seat which was considered a Congress bastion.
The BJP won Rae Bareli in 1996 and 1998 but the seat was won by congress’s Satish Sharma in 1999 and by Sonia in 2004 and 2009.
The possible high-profile contest will also be Rae Bareli’s first after 1980 when Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia took on Indira Gandhi. Indira had lost the seat to Raj Narain in 1977 but defeated Scindia in 1980.
In Amethi, Rajiv Gandhi had defeated his sister-in-law Maneka Gandhi in 1984 and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi in 1989.