With sitting MP Manish Tewari citing health reasons to wriggle out of a contest in Ludhiana, the Congress is all set to do some damage-control by springing yet another surprise. In the list being considered by the party now - it earlier had names of MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu, and senior former MPs Jagmeet Brar and Surinder Singla - corporate big shot Rakesh Bharti Mittal is the significant addition.
A native of Ludhiana, Rakesh is vice-chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises, which owns mobile telephony giant Airtel among other interests. He is the younger brother of group head Sunil Bharti Mittal. The Mittals also have political roots in Punjab as their father Satpaul Mittal was a Congressman and remained Rajya Sabha member from the state.
Though, after sitting MP Ravneet Singh Bittu was replaced from Anandpur Sahib by former union minister Ambika Soni, Bittu's name was also doing the rounds for Ludhiana, the party is inclined towards fielding a Hindu face in what has become a four-cornered contest with three Sikh candidates in the fray - the SAD's Manpreet Singh Ayali, Aam Aadmi Party's HS Phoolka and independent Simarjit Singh Bains.
Ludhiana being the business hub of Punjab, Rakesh is likely to get support of the business community and industry, while giving the Congress a much-needed face-saver after Tewari's prolonged dilly-dallying forced the party to let him sit out.