In a bid to inject some enthusiasm into its cadres, the Congress on Friday nominated two of its senior most leaders, the former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and party general secretary Ambika Soni from Amritsar and Anandpur Sahib respectively.
Captain Singh, the former Maharaja of Patiala, who was a Lok Sabha MP last in 1980, will take on the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley of the BJP, while Ms. Soni has been pitted against Prem Singh Chandu Majra of the Shiromani Akali Dal.
Party sources said both Captain Singh and Ms. Soni had to be “persuaded” to contest these elections. Amritsar is currently held by the BJP, while the MP from Anandpur Sahib is Congress’s Ravnit Singh Bittu, who was re-nominated, only to be replaced.
Party sources added that Ms. Soni, currently a Rajya Sabha MP, had worked between 2004 and 2009 in Anandpur Sahib in the hope that she would get the ticket in 2009, but the party decided at that time to field Mr. Bittu and asked her to help him. Five years on, she is no longer as keen, but has been told to take on the challenge.
The list of 26 candidates released on Friday includes 21 from West Bengal, where the party is fighting alone this time.
In an earlier list, the party had re-nominated its six sitting MPs.
Senior party leaders Abdul Mannan and Manas Bhunia, both sitting MLAs, have been fielded from Sreerampur and Ghatal respectively, much against their wishes.
The big star who has been roped in to contest on behalf of the Congress from the high-profile Jadavpur seat is well-known artist Samir Aich, who was part of the Trinamool’s Congress’s band of intellectuals but fell out with Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee in January 2013.
Mr. Aich will take on Subhash Chandra Bose’s grandnephew and Harvard University Professor Sugata Bose of the Trinamool Congress.
Omprakash Mishra, who teaches international relations at Jadavpur University and is the vice-president of the West Bengal unit, will contest from Balurghat.
The West Bengal list also contains two from the Youth Congress — Samrat Topedar from Barrackpur and Kunal Bannerjee from Kanthi.
The Congress has fielded party MLA Shivajirao Moghe from Maharashtra’s Yavatmal Washim.