New Delhi: TV star-turned-BJP politician Smriti Irani will take on Rahul Gandhi in Amethi turning the contest into a high profile clash with Aam Aadmi Party’s Kumar Vishwas already in the fray.
Irani will spice up the contest with Vishwas camping in Amethi in a bid to challenge the Congress leader who has won elections from Amethi in 2004 and 2009 and continues to be the favourite.
But BJP has not found a high profile candidate to contest against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli and has settled for Ajay Agarwal, a Supreme Court advocate who has filed PILs on cases like Bofors and Telgi scams.
BJP was considering pitching Uma Bharti against Sonia but the saffron leader made it clear that she did not want to leave Jhansi, where she is already contesting, and refused to budge even when she was given the option of contesting both seats.
Agarwal recently protested what he alleged was a bid by BJP to field a “weak” candidate against Sonia. He has now been picked for the seat that he sought on the grounds of being a “crusader” against corruption. He is based in Ghaziabad and has been seeking the Rae Bareli ticket for some time.
The decision to pit Irani, a Rajya Sabha MP seen to be close to Narendra Modi, comes after BJP decided that it should try and raise the ante against Rahul and Sonia in their boroughs that have been Gandhi bastions.
The move is also based on an assessment that the going may be tougher than usual for Congress’s top duo with BJP staging a comeback in Uttar Pradesh on the back of perceived support for Modi.
There is a view that given Congress’s desperate wooing of leaders like Sanjay Singh, who had threatened to switch to BJP, the party’s prospects in the two seats may not be all that robust. Singh’s wife Amita has been given a Lok Sabha ticket.
Even during the previous assembly poll, Priyanka Gandhi had camped several days in the area to try and ensure a positive result. If Irani indeed unseats Rahul, it will be the biggest upset in the election. It’s remote, but no one is counting that out entirely under the current atmosphere.