THE CONGRESS on Wednesday came out with its second list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, fielding four turncoats — among them two former BJP MPs — and prominent faces such as Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar from Moradabad and former Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde from his traditional seat of Solapur.
Prominent among those in the second list of 21 candidates —five from Maharashtra and 16 from UP — are former Union ministers Milind Deora (Mumbai South) and Sriprakash Jaiswal (Kanpur), Priya Dutt (Mumbai North Central) and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh (Sultanpur).
Among the turncoats, while former BJP MP and the party’s farmer’s wing chief Nana Patole is expected to take on Union minister Nitin Gadkari in Nagpur, former Samajwadi Party MP Rakesh Sachan will contest from Fatehpur. Former BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule will contest from Bahraich and former BSP MP Kaisar Jahan from Sitapur.
Interestingly, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has on more than one occasion said it in public that he would not allow tickets to those who have joined the party on the eve of elections. He once called them parachute leaders. Sachan, Jahan and Phule joined the Congress earlier this month. Patole joined the Congress in January last year.
The Congress’s announcement of 16 candidates for Uttar Pradesh, taking the total number of candidates for the state to 27, came a day after BSP supremo Mayawati declared that her party would not have any electoral tie-up with the Congress in any state. Interestingly, Babbar, the UPCC president, has moved to Moradabad from Ghaziabad, where he lost to Union minister V K Singh in the 2014 elections.
By inducting Phule into the party, the Congress had sent a signal to both the BJP and BSP. A Dalit leader, the Congress believes her candidature will boost the party in eastern UP and help it counter the BJP’s renewed attempt to win over Dalits. It is also a signal to the BSP, which has a predominantly Dalit vote bank.
Others in the list are Namdev Dalluji Usendi (Gadchiroli-Chimur), Omwati Devi Jatav (Nagina), Zafar Ali Naqvi (Kheri), Manjari Rahi (Misrikh), Ramashankar Bhargava (Mohanlalganj), Ratna Singh (Pratapgarh), Parvez Khan (Sant Kabinagar), Kush Saurabh (Basgaon), Pankaj Mohan Sonkar (Lalganj), Lalitesh Pati Tripathi (Mirzapur) and Bhagwati Prasad Choudhary (Robertsganj).
Of the 16 seats in UP for which candidates were announced on Wednesday, the Congress will face SP opponents in 6 seats and BSP opponents in 10 seats.
Jaiswal, a former MP from Kanpur, will be pitted against BJP stalwart Murli Manohar Joshi if the BJP decides to field him again from the same seat. Joshi had defeated Jaiswal in 2014.
Tripathi is one of the young faces of the Congress in eastern UP. He is great grandson of former UP chief minister Kamalapati Tripathi.
The Congress’s decision to field Rajya Sabha MP and Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist Sanjay Singh from Sultanpur is interesting given the fact that the seat is now held by BJP’s Varun Gandhi. The Congress by fielding Singh is trying to woo the upper caste votes which has been the mainstay of the BJP. In Pratapgarh, another Thakur-dominated seat, the party has repeated Ratna Singh, who has represented the seat thrice in the past.