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Thursday , March 20 , 2014
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Poll-weary PC pushes son forward
Seniors wary, Mani ready

Chidambaram’s son Karti (in dark glasses) outside Parliament as the family arrived to watch the finance minister present the budget in 2013. The others in the picture are (from right) Chidambaram’s wife Nalini, granddaughter Aditi and daughter-in-law Srinidhi.

New Delhi, March 19: Rahul Gandhi’s diktat to Congress veterans to fight the elections appears to have achieved limited success so far as many of them are still reluctant to enter the fray.

Sources said finance minister P. Chidambaram had convinced the leadership to field his son Karti from his home constituency Sivaganga. Two Union ministers from Tamil Nadu, Jayanthi Natarajan and G.K. Vasan, are also reluctant to contest. But Rajya Sabha member Mani Shankar Aiyar is set to jump into the poll arena.

Chidambaram today attacked BJP leader Arun Jaitley for making fun of the Congress leaders who were fighting shy of elections. “Jaitley is fighting the election for the first time at the age of 62. I have been contesting for 30 years,” the finance minister said.

Chidambaram has won the Sivaganga constituency for seven terms and his son has been working there for the past few years.

The party has not been that kind to another veteran, Amrinder Singh, the former Punjab chief minister who is “extremely reluctant” to contest.

Although Amrinder’s wish was honoured initially, the party has reopened the chapter after the BJP decided to field Jaitley in Amritsar. Party sources said Amrinder has been asked to reconsider his decision as the Congress did not want to gift Jaitley a walkover.

The candidature of the Punjab unit president and sitting MP, Pratap Singh Bajwa, who did not want to contest, was yesterday announced from Gurdaspur without his consent. If the high command acts tough and forces Amrinder to contest, Amritsar will witness a high-profile battle.

Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari, who was not very enthusiastic about contesting his Ludhiana seat, agreed to fight after Sonia Gandhi’s displeasure was conveyed to him.

Some senior leaders who wanted to contest, however, has been asked to remain free for election management. Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, for instance, was keen to fight but was not allowed.

Party general secretary B.K. Hariprasad, too, wanted to contest from his home state Karnataka but did not get the go-ahead. Another general secretary, Digvijaya Singh, who was accommodated in the Rajya Sabha from his home state Madhya Pradesh only last month, has offered to contest against Narendra Modi in Varanasi.

Digvijaya’s Rajya Sabha nomination had come as a surprise as he always preferred electoral politics to enter Parliament. There was a demand from the Madhya Pradesh unit to field him against Sushma Swaraj in Vidisha. Digvijaya said he would contest from anywhere if the party ordered.

Another senior Congress leader, Anand Sharma, today said he “would be more than happy” to contest from Varanasi if the party so decided, adds PTI.

Although there were indications today that many Congress leaders favoured fielding a local candidate from Varanasi, sources said three to four names were under consideration. The leadership is maintaining strict secrecy on this question and nobody confirmed if Digvijaya was one of the names being considered. Digvijaya is not in India and will return day after tomorrow.

In Delhi, although five sitting MPs were re-nominated for contest, two others, Mahabal Mishra and Ramesh Kumar, are stuck. Both of them demanded tickets for their relatives in the Delhi Assembly elections and could not ensure their victory. Sources say this is being held against them.

But removing Mishra, who hails from Bihar, is tricky as he represents a constituency that has a high presence of voters from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Congress is working on actor Manoj Bajpai, who too is from Bihar, as a replacement.