The Congress Thursday released its first list of 15 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, fielding UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi from Raebareli and party president Rahul Gandhi from Amethi.
The list, finalised at a meeting of the party's central election committee chaired by Rahul Gandhi, named 11 candidates from Uttar Pradesh and four from Gujarat. The announcement put an end to speculation that Sonia Gandhi may not contest in the upcoming polls due to health reasons and the party's newly appointed general secretary in-charge (East UP) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra may be fielded from her constituency.
Interestingly, the Congress has announced 11 candidates for the electorally crucial state of the UP where there is still no clarity on whether the party will go it alone or be a part of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal grand alliance.
Former Union ministers Salman Khurshid, Jitin Prasad and R P N Singh have been fielded from their traditional seats of Farrukhabad, Dhaurahra and Kushi Nagar respectively. Former UP Congress chief Nirmal Khatri will contest from Faizabad, while Bharatsinh Solanki, the party's ex-chief of the Gujarat unit, has been fielded from the state's Anand constituency.
The party has fielded Imran Masood from Saharanpur, Saleem Iqbal Shervani from Badaun, Annu Tandon from Unnao, Rajaram Pal from Akbarpur, and Brij Lal Khabri from Jalaun (SC) in UP. Pal was caught in a sting operation in 2005 along with 10 other MPs for accepting bribe in lieu of asking questions in the Parliament. He was then in the BSP as a member of the 14th Lok Sabha. Apart from Solanki, the other candidates named from Gujarat are -- Raju Parmar from Ahmedabad West (SC), Prashant Patel from Vadodra, and Ranjit Mohansinh Rathwa from Chotta Udaipur (ST).
Uttar Pradesh has 80 Lok Sabha seats out of which the Congress had won just two (Amethi and Raebareli) in 2014, while Gujarat has 26 seats and the Congress had drawn a blank in 2014. This is the sixth time Sonia Gandhi is contesting Lok Sabha polls while for Rahul it is fourth.
BSP chief Mayawati and SP's Akhilesh Yadav had jointly announced their alliance in January. On Tuesday, Yadav, at a press conference in Lucknow with RLD's Jayant Chaudhary, had said the Rashtriya Lok Dal will contest three Lok Sabha seats as part of an alliance with the SP and the BSP. After repeated questions by reporters at the press conference, the SP chief had said the Congress was "very much in the alliance". "We have left two seats (Amethi and Raebareli) for the party (Congress)," he had said.