Congress President Rahul Gandhi will contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from his traditional Amethi seat and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi from her Rae Bareli, according to Congress’s first list of candidates released on Thursday.
The list of 15 candidates includes four candidates from Gujarat and 11 from Uttar Pradesh.
The list includes some young faces who have contested elections earlier as also from the old guard and reflects Rahul Gandhi’s desire to field well-known names to brighten the party’s prospects in the triangular fight.
In Uttar Pradesh, the party has again fielded former Union ministers Salman Khurshid from Farrukhabad, Jitin Prasad from Dhaurahra and R.P.N. Singh from Kushi Nagar.
The three leaders have been fielded from their traditional seats which they lost in 2014 when the BJP swept the polls in the state.
The party has fielded former MPs Annu Tandon from Unnao, Nirmal Khatri from Faizabad, Saleem Iqbal Shervani from Badaun, Rajaram Pal from Abkarpur and Brij Lal Khabri from Jalaun. The last two had joined the Congress after leaving Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party.
Imran Masood, who had made controversial remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls, has been fielded again from Saharanpur. He was censured by the Congress leadership for his “chop Narendra Modi into pieces” remark and was asked issue a public clarification.
Both Khurshid and Shervani are seen as the old guard while Prasad and Singh are among the generation next leaders in the Congress.
In Gujarat, the party has fielded former Rajya Sabha MP Raju Parmar from Ahmedabad West, former Union Minister and former state unit chief Bharatsinh M Solanki from Anand, Prashant Patel from Vadodara and Ranjit Mohansinh Rathwa from Chhota Udaipur.
The first Congress list has come even as the schedule of Lok Sabha elections has not been declared. The party has taken lead over the ruling BJP which is yet to declare its first list of candidates.
With both Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi contesting, there is still speculation if Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is General Secretary of eastern Uttar Pradesh, will enter the poll fray too. There has been demand from sections in the party that she should be fielded from Varanasi against Modi.
The Congress, which is not part of Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance in Uttar Pradesh, is fighting the elections on its own on all the 80 parliamentary seats though it has not ruled out possibility of alliance with smaller parties. Both the SP, the BSP and the RLD are yet to formally declare their candidates though the alliance has announced they will not field candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli.
Congress leaders said the list shows that the party will contest the elections “on the front foot” and strongly.
The list comes days before the meeting of Congress Working Committee, which will meet in Gujarat, the home state of Modi.