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Ramdev ally versus Sonia

Rahul Gandhi, Smriti Irani

New Delhi, March 31: The BJP tonight announced that Smriti Irani would contest against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi while Supreme Court lawyer Ajay Aggarwal would take on Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli.

The close-to-midnight decisions taken by the central election committee capped weeks of speculation about whether Uma Bharti would be pitted against Sonia.

Uma’s name had been proposed by Baba Ramdev who said he felt “let down” by the BJP after his nominees were “denied” tickets. Uma had already been named from Jhansi and had conveyed to the leadership she did not want to fight from a second seat.

Aggarwal, who was reportedly a member of the RSS’s student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, is close to Ramdev. He had moved a public interest petition in the apex court in June 2011, when the yoga exponent and his supporters were evicted by Delhi police from a Ramlila ground congregation at midnight. Sources said Ramdev may have floated Uma’s name as a red herring to push through his candidate.

In Amethi, the presence of Smriti — a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat and political associate of Narendra Modi — is expected to make the fight seem less one-sided than it appears, with the Samajwadi Party announcing it will not put up contestants against the Gandhis.