Ending speculation about Sonia Gandhi’s retirement from politics, the Congress on Thursday announced that she would contest from Rae Bareli, while party chief Rahul Gandhi would seek re-election from Amethi.
The party announced its first list of 15 Lok Sabha candidates — 11 from Uttar Pradesh and four from Gujarat — after a meeting of its central election committee. Making a point to the SP-BSP alliance, the Congress fielded candidates from seats held by the two parties, including from Badaun which is currently represented by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s nephew Dharmendra Yadav.
The SP-BSP alliance has said that it will not field candidates from Amethi and Rae Bareli.
While five-time MP Saleem Iqbal Shervani has been fielded from Badaun, the others in the Uttar Pradesh list are: Salman Khurshid (Farrukhabad), Jitin Prasada (Dhaurahra), R P N Singh (Kushi Nagar), Annu Tandon (Unnao), Nirmal Khatri (Faizabad), Brij Lal Khabri (Jalaun), Imran Masood (Saharanpur) and Rajaram Pal (Akbarpur).
In Gujarat, former PCC president Bharatsinh Solanki (Anand), Raju Parmar (Ahmedabad West), Prashant Patel (Vadodara), Ranjit Mohansinh Rathwa (Chhota Udaipur) are in the first list.
Of the 11 seats in UP, the Congress had won eight in 2009. While Saharanpur went to the BSP, the SP won from Jalaun and Badaun. In 2004, the Congress was defeated in all these seats except Amethi and Rae Bareli. The SP had then won four of these seats, while two had gone to the BSP. In 2014 too, the Congress only won Amethi and Rae Bareli.
The party has not announced candidates from Barabanki, Kanpur, Sultanpur and Sitapur, all of which had only one contender from within the party. Sources said the UP screening committee had forwarded the names of AICC general secretary P L Punia’s son Tanuj Punia for Barabanki, former union minister Sriprakash Jaiswal for Kanpur, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh for Sultanpur and former BSP MP Kaisar Jahan for Sitapur.
Sources in the Congress said the party is still hoping to persuade the SP and BSP to see reason and avoid a triangular contest. The party is also said to be discussing a proposal to focus on about 40 seats, to ensure that there is no vote division between the Congress and SP-BSP in the remaining seats.
The meeting of the party’s central election committee was also attended by AICC general secretary, East UP, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Meanwhile, the BJP parliamentary board is likely to meet on Friday to take stock of the party’s poll preparation.