The temple town of Amritsar is set to witness a high-voltage contest in the Lok Sabha elections, with the Congress pitting former chief minister Amarinder Singh against senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley.
A surprise inclusion in the list of 26 candidates announced by the Congress on Friday was AICC general secretary Ambika Soni from Anandpur Sahib, a seat held by Ravneet Singh Bittu, grandson of former chief minister Beant Singh.
Captain Amarinder Singh, the Maharaja of the erstwhile kingdom of Patiala, was reluctant to contest the Lok Sabha elections and had made it known to the Congress leadership.
However, Congress president Sonia Gandhi prevailed over Singh and directed him to take the plunge to give Jaitley a tough fight. Four-term Rajya Sabha member Jaitley is contesting a direct election for the first time.
Singh had expressed his inability to contest from Amritsar, and told Gandhi he would prefer campaigning across the state. Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, who is considered not to be on the best of terms with Amarinder Singh, is learnt to have recommended to the party leadership that the former chief minister could be a formidable-enough candidate to take on Jaitley.
Soni would be pitted against Akali Dal general secretary and a two-term Member of Parliament Prem Singh Chandumajra in Anandpur Sahib.
The Congress had fielded Bittu from Anandpur Sahib earlier, but has been replaced by Soni. Besides the two crucial seats from Punjab, the Congress also announced 24 candidates in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Bihar.