Congress plans to pit biggies against BJP stalwarts

Last Updated 19 March 2014, 20:44 IST

The Congress appears to be changing gears by planning to field heavyweights against BJP stalwarts such as its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and senior leader Arun Jaitley.

Speculation is rife that AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, a known Sangh baiter, would be fielded against Modi in Varanasi. The Congress is on the look out for an equally formidable candidate against the Gujarat chief minister who will also contest from Vadodara in Gujarat.

Sources said the Congress is seriously contemplating fielding former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh against BJP master strategist Arun Jaitley, who is contesting his maiden Lok Sabha election from Amritsar.

Reports from Chandigarh said that Singh was unwilling to contest the Lok Sabha elections. His wife and Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur is the Congress candidate from Patiala. Singh is expected to meet senior Congress leaders in Delhi on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has also thrown his hat in the ring, expressing willingness to contest the Lok Sabha elections against Modi “if the party leadership decides”.

However, sources close to Digvijay discounted speculation over his being a candidate against Modi in Varanasi. Singh was elected to the Rajya Sabha only last month.

A view in the Congress is that a Brahmin candidate would prove beneficial for the party in Varanasi which has sizeable upper caste voters who could swing the election.

A section of Congress leaders also believe that the BJP driving out Murli Manohar Joshi from Varanasi to accommodate Modi could alienate the upper caste voters from the saffron party.

Meanwhile, I&B Minister Manish Tewari, who had been hospitalised following a heart ailment, has also given indications that he would be ready to contest the elections. There was speculation that he may opt out of the electoral race given his health condition.

(Published 19 March 2014, 20:44 IST)

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