LUCKNOW: Taking a lead over any other political party, Congress, on late Thursday night, put out its first list of 15 candidates, including AICC chief Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairpersons Sonia Gandhi contesting from their strongholds of Amethi and Rae Barlei, respectively.
Of the 15 names announced by the Central Election Committee of Congress party in Delhi, 11 are for Uttar Pradesh while remaining four for Gujarat.
After the first list of 15, suspense on Sonia Gandhi’s chances of contesting from Rae Bareli has ended. Significantly, the political circles had been abuzz with the speculations that Sonia may not contest 2019 Lok Sabha election owing to her medical condition.
Announcement of first list of candidates selected by Congress Central Election Committee for the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. pic.twitter.com/FEzssyx3uV— Congress (@INCIndia) March 7, 2019
Speculations were also rife that the UPA chairperson may be replaced by newly-appointed national general secretary of Congress and her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. However, Priyanka’s name does not feature in the first list. Priyanka Gandhi has been handed the charge of handling Uttar Pradesh (eastern region) along with Jyotiraditya Scindia. While Rahul Gandhi would hold his fort in Amethi, other nine seats – Saharanpur, Badaun, Dhaurara, Unnao, Farrukhabad, Kushinagar, Faizabad, Jalaun and Ambedkarnagar – for which the names announced, have remained Congress stronghold a decade back.
Though the party had won just two seats from UP in 2014, the list for 2019 makes it clear that Congress has played safe on its pocket boroughs by retaining established names, like Salman Khursheed from Farrukhabad, RPN Singh from Kushinagar, Jitin Prasada from Dhaurara and Anu Tandon from Unnao.
While the name of Imran Masood from Saharanpur was a foregone conclusion as he was one among those six Congress candidates who had remained runner up in 2014 under a strong Modi wave. Masood had given a tough fight to BJP’s Ragjav Lakhanpal who had secured 39.50 per cent votes and Masood was close behind with 34.14 per cent votes. There was a small difference of 5. 36 per cent between the winning candidate and runner up Imran Masood.
Similarly, RPN Singh too was the runner up in Kushinagar. However, Salman Khursheed in Farrukhabad, Nirmal Khatri, former UPCC chief, in Faizabad, Raja Rampal in Akbarpur, Anu Tandon in Unnao and Jitin Prasad in Dhauhrara had remained on 4th position.
On the other, Salim Sherwani will make the contest in Badaun interesting as the sitting MP from the constituency belongs to Yadav clan of Samajwadi Party. Dharmendar Yadav, a first cousin of SP chief Akhilesh has been a two three-time MP from the same seat. In 2014, the Congress was not there in the frame of first five but in 2009, Salim Sherwani, fielded by Congress, had remained at number three position. Sherwani had won the seat for Congress in 1999.
In Jalaun, which is a reserved seat in Jhansi division of Bundelkhand region, Congress candidate Vijay Chaudhary was relegated to number four position in 2014. The seat was won by the BJP.
Congress has also announced a few seats in Gujarat, including the Vadodara and Anand constituencies that are BJP strongholds, along with Ahmedabad West (SC) and Chhota Udaipur reserved for a
candidate from scheduled tribe. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Vadodara. Prashant Patel has been fielded as the Congress candidate from Vadodara while senior party leader Bharatsinh Solanki will contest from Anand.