The Congress on Thursday released a first list of 11 candidates, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Uttar Pradesh at a time when functionaries say back-channel talks are on over joining the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance in the state, report Hindustan Times.
The re-nomination of Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli ends speculation that she may sit out of the elections to make way in the Gandhi family bastion for party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is also the party’s east Uttar Pradesh incharge. The Congress also announced four candidates from Gujarat.
While Rahul Gandhi will contest from Amethi, the party will field former Members of Parliament Salman Khurshid (Farukkhabad), Anu Tandon (Unnao), RPN Singh (Kushi Nagar), Jitin Prasada (Dhaurahra), Nirmal Khatri (Faizabad), and Salim Iqbal Shervani (Badaun).
The party has also named Rajaram Pal as its candidate from Akbarpur, a seat won by BSP supremo Mayawati in 2004; Imran Masood from Saharanpur, and Brij Lal Khabri from Jalaun, a reserved constituency for Scheduled Caste candidates.
Party functionaries, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the 11 candidates from UP have still left scope for the possibility of some understanding between the Congress and the SP-BSP combine, which now also includes the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
A senior Congress leader indicated that the last word on the arrangement was yet to be said. Though the BSP and the SP did not tie up with the Congress over an apparent disagreement over how seats should be shared, back-channel talks are on between them to prevent division of anti-BJP votes through triangular contests after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, he added.
In any case, the SP-BSP combine left Rae Bareli and Amethi for the Congress. “This shows the Congress is a part of the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance),” SP leader Akhilesh Yadav said on Tuesday, when asked of a possibly of a larger alliance.
The Gujarat list includes Raju Parmar from Ahmedabad West, former state Congress president Bharatsinh M Solanki from Anand, Prashant Patel from Vadodara, and Ranbjit Mohansinh Rathwa from the reserved tribal seat of Chhota Udaipur.
Political analyst N Bhaskara Rao said the move could be pressure tactics on the part of the Congress to force a tie-up with the SP-BSP in the politically important state of UP.
“Congress has given a message that it is a serious player in UP and that it has some winnable candidates to force the SP and BSP to reconsider their decision,” he said.