Encouraged by the positive response to its move of fielding big guns in Punjab, the Congress is all set to field former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal from Sangrur. She would replace sitting MP Vijay Inder Singla, whose name was announced in the first list of candidates on March 8.
Bharti Group vice chairman Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Ravneet Singh Bittu (who was moved from Anandpur Sahib to make way for former Union minister Ambika Soni) and Singla (to be replaced by Bhattal) are among the names being considered for Ludhiana, which is held by I&B minister Manish Tewari. He has opted out of the poll race on health grounds.
Mittal’s family sources, however, said he was not in the running. A Bharti group spokesperson said “rumours” that Mittal was contesting the election “are completely baseless”.
Congress sources said the move to field former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh from Amritsar (against senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley) and former minister Ambika Soni from Anandpur Sahib had galvanised party workers across the state. Continuing with the decision, the party on Monday named Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Sunil Kumar Jakhar from the Ferozepur seat.
A Congress leader said Singla, facing strong anti-incumbency in Sangrur, was finding it difficult to contain local leaders’ campaign against him. “We cannot let the seat go to any other party. This is a do-or-die situation,” he added.
The Congress, meanwhile, continues to keep up the suspense on Varanasi. Reports suggested that Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh will be named from the seat but sources close to him denied any such move. The names of local leaders Ajay Rai and Rajesh Mishra are also doing the rounds.
In its fresh list of 16 candidates, the party has fielded Nand Gopal Gupta “Nandi” from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Nandi, a former BSP minister, had joined the Congress last week after eyeing a BJP ticket from the constituency.
Union minister Namo Narain Meena is the party candidate from Dausa in Rajasthan.