Bhojpuri and Oriya actors, cricketer Mohammed Kaif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla are among the 194 candidates.
While Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were expected to be in the Congress’s first list of 194 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections that was released here late on Saturday evening, Infosys co-founder and Unique Identification Authority of India chairman Nandan Nilekani, cricketer Mohammad Kaif and former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla feature in it as well.
There has been a conscious effort to decrease the average of the candidates, and Congress sources said that 35 per cent of the candidates are under the age of 50.
In Uttar Pradesh, 18 of the party’s 22 sitting MPs, including Union Ministers Salman Khurshid, Sriprakash Jaiswal, R.P.N. Singh and Jitin Prasada have been re-nominated. Interestingly, with Sanjay Singh, who won the Sultanpur seat in 2009, having secured a Rajya Sabha nomination recently – after reportedly threatening to move to the BJP – his wife, Amita Singh, a sitting MLA, has been given the ticket.
If the Rampur nomination has been given to Kazim Ali Khan, the son of Begum Noor Bano, who represented the constituency several times, industrialist Saleem Sherwani is back in the Congress and has secured the Aonla ticket. Bhojpuri film star Ravi Kishen will contest from Jaunpur, and cricketer Mohammad Kaif from Phulpur, Jawaharlal Nehru's old constituency.
In Madhya Pradesh, Union Ministers Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, former PCC chief Kantilal Bhuria and current incumbent Arun Yadav have all been re-nominated. In Karnataka, Union Ministers Mallikarjun Kharge, K.H. Muniyappa former Chief Minister Dharam Singh and actress Divya Spandana Ramya have been renominated, while Mr. Nilekani will contest from Bangalore South, taking on senior BJP leader Ananth Kumar.
In Maharashtra, most of the sitting MPs, including Union Ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and Milind Deora, party general secretaries Mukul Wasnik and Gurudas Kamat, Vilas Muttemwar, Priya Dutt, Sanjay Nirupam have been re-nominated.
Interestingly, as speculation continued about the wives of Suresh Kalmadi — indicted in the CWG scam — and former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan — named in the Adarsh scandal — being nominated, the party is yet to name candidates for Pune and Nanded.
In Assam, sitting three-time Congress MP from Kaliabor Dip Gogoi has been replaced by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s son, Gaurav Gogoi. The Aurangabad seat in Bihar will be contested by Nikhil Kumar, who resigned recently as Governor of Kerala: the former police commissioner of Delhi has won the seat in the past, one that used to be represented by his father Satyendra Narain Sinha, a former Chief Minister of the state.
Some central ministers such as Srikant Jena, Sachin Pilot and Manish Tewari failed to make it to the first list amidst speculation that their seats may be changed.
In Odhisha, the Puri ticket has gone to former financial journalist Sucharita Mohanty, who has worked at both Economic Times and Financial Express: her father, Brajmohan Mohanty, used to represent the seat and was a minister in the governments of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.