After much dilly-dallying, the Congress finally came out with its first list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections on Saturday, with party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi leading the big names.
Infosys co-founder-turned-Aadhaar-chairman Nandan Nilekani will take on the BJP’s sitting MP Ananth Kumar in Bangalore South, as was widely expected. A surprise pick is cricketer Mohammad Kaif, who will try his luck from Phulpur, a constituency once represented by Jawaharlal Nehru.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar (Sasaram), AB Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla (Bilaspur) and former Odisha chief justice NY Hanumanthappa (Bellary) are the other prominent names in the list of 194 candidates, which includes 24 sitting ministers and 60 of the ruling party’s 201 sitting MPs.
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The list takes into account gender and youth factors with 15% of candidates being women and 35% below 50 years of age. It has also declared candidates for 50 of the 80 seats in the key political state of Uttar Pradesh but left out Varanasi — which is expected to see a Narendra Modi-versus-Arvind Kejriwal clash.
Sonia will run for a fourth term from Rae Bareli while this will be Rahul’s third election from Amethi.
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Among the sitting ministers who have been re-nominated are Sushilkumar Shinde (Solapur), Kamal Nath (Chhindwara), Salman Khurshid (Farukhabad), Sriprakash Jaiswal (Kanpur) and Jyotiraditya Scindia (Guna).
Jitendra Singh (Alwar), Meenakshi Natarajan (Mandsour), Milind Deora (Mumbai South), Jitin Prasada (Dhaurahra), Navin Jindal (Kurukshetra), Deepender Singh Hooda (Rohtak), Priya Dutt (Mumbai North-Central) and President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijeet Mukherjee (Jangipur) make up the youth brigade. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s son Gaurav Gogoi will also contest his first election from Kaliabor.
The Congress has also given tickets to several actors — Bhojpuri star Ravi Kishan (Jaunpur) and Aparajita Mohanty (Cuttack) and Bijay Mohanty (Bhubaneswar) from the Oriya film industry.
Among other notable names are Gujarat CLP leader Shankersinh Vaghela (Sabarkantha), party general secretaries Mukul Wasnik (Ramtek) and Gurudas Kamath (Mumbai North-West) and BSP chief Mayawati’s former aide PL Punia (Barabanki).
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The move came hours after the BJP released its second list of LS candidates earlier in the day. Nilekani will take on BJP MP Ananth Kumar from the Bangalore South constituency. Atal Behari Vajpayee’s niece, Karuna Shukla, will contest from Bilaspur. Ranjeet Ranjan, Pappu Yadav's wife, will contest on Congress ticket from Supaul in Bihar.
The BJP announced its second list of 52 candidates with former Karnataka chief ministers BS Yeddyurappa and DV Sadananda Gowda and Rajya Sabha MP Chandan Mitra among the big names.
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With its second list on Saturday, the BJP has announced a total of 106 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections that will be held between April 7 and May 12. The third list of BJP’s LS candidates would be announced after an election meeting on March 13.