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TMC enters fray against Sonia, Rajnath

New Delhi, March 19: The Trinamul Congress today fielded Lok Sabha poll candidates against the national presidents of the Congress and the BJP.

While Umesh Mishra will contest against Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli, Mohammed Sarvar Malik will take on Rajnath Singh in Lucknow.

The choice of the Lucknow candidate prompted suggestions that it might lead to a split in the non-BJP votes in the seat.

The ruling party in Bengal today said it would also field a nominee against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi.

No Trinamul leader from Bengal was present when the party’s candidate list was announced at a news conference in Delhi, a move seen by some as a half-hearted attempt to put up a brave face at a time Mamata Banerjee’s national plans have taken a beating because of the break-up with Anna Hazare.

Trinamul’s lone MP in Uttar Pradesh, Shyam Sundar Sharma, announced the names of 18 candidates who will contest from the heartland state and Delhi. Asked about the prospect of the candidate contesting against Sonia, Sharma said he hoped Mishra would win.

Later, Sharma told this correspondent Mishra and Malik were “not outsiders”, but social workers associated with Trinamul for the past few years in Rae Bareli and Lucknow.

Although Trinamul leaders in Bengal are relieved that Mamata has chosen to concentrate on Bengal after social activist Anna’s no-show at the Delhi rally last week and his later announcement that he would not campaign for the party’s candidates, Trinamul is wary of creating a perception that the chief minister had little standing outside her state.

Mamata has started holding a series of meetings in the districts and Trinamul leaders said the party’s immediate aim was to win the maximum number of seats in Bengal.

Trinamul’s move to field candidates outside Bengal and keep alive the promise that Mamata would campaign across the country, including in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, is being seen as attempts by the party to avoid giving the impression that it had stalled its national plans.

“Mamata Banerjee’s visit to Gujarat has not been cancelled, but postponed,” said Pravin Sinh Jadeja, the leader of the Gujarat Samata Party that is going to merge with Trinamul. Mamata was supposed to address a rally with Anna in Ahmedabad tomorrow but it was deferred apparently because of the flop show at Ramlila Maidan.

“I want Mamata didi to visit the state (Gujarat) once before March 30. But she wants to come when the campaign picks up. She has told me to find strong candidates (for the Lok Sabha polls),” Jadeja said over phone.

Trinamul sources said Mamata would visit Gujarat because she still wanted to convey the message that she had nothing to do with Modi.