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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 19, 2014
Two senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Digvijaya Singh on Wednesday offered to take on BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Varanasi in an attempt to send a clear message that the party was not going to give the Gujarat strongman a free pass in Uttar Pradesh. Earlier in the day, party general secretary Shakil Ahmed said I&B minister Manish Tewari was likely to fight from Ludhiana beating down speculation that he was unwilling to contest.

Dismissing suggestions that the party might back AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal as a ‘joint candidate’ from Varanasi, party spokesman and Union commerce minister Anand Sharma told reporters: “There are many names under consideration for Varanasi seat. Congress will field a strong candidate”.

Sharma added he would be happy to take on Modi while party sources said that general secretary Digvijaya Singh was up for the fight too. Both are members of the Rajya Sabha.
 
The party has shortlisted three names for Varanasi and is expected to field a Brahmin candidate from the temple town. The name of slain ex-Gujarat minister Haren Pandya widow, Jagruti Pandya is also doing rounds.