Elections: Smriti Irani may challenge Rahul Gandhi from Amethi

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New Delhi: While yoga guru Ramdev wants the BJP to field saffron sanyasin Uma Bharti from Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli home turf in Uttar Pradesh, the party is abuzz with speculation that actress-turned-politician Smriti Irani may be fielded from Amethi, Congress vice-chief Rahul Gandhi’s constituency.

The Aam Aadmi Party has already fielded Kumar Vishwas against Mr Gandhi.While Ms Bharti has already been fielded from Jhansi, where her presence is expected to influence other seats in Bundelkhand, Ms Irani is a Rajya Sabha MP and a BJP vice-president.

As the BJP wants to give a serious fight in both these VIP seats, the names of Ms Bharti and Ms Irani are doing the rounds. Ms Irani is considered close to BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi. Baba Ramdev, in a press conference on Wednesday, asked the BJP leadership to field Ms Bharti from Rae Bareli. Sources said though talks are on in the BJP, the leadership is yet to take a final call on these two seats in UP.

Sources said Ramdev wanted one of his candidates, a member of the family famous for ayurvedic products, to be fielded from Jhansi, but the BJP refused and fielded Ms Bharti. While speculation is rife that Ms Bharti may be shifted to Rae Bareli or asked to contest both seats, the BJP’s poll managers don’t want her shifted from Jhansi as that constituency has a significant number of OBC votes and Ms Bharti is considered a prominent Lodh face.

Sources said that besides Jhansi itself, adjoining seats in the Bundelkhand region, including Bhind, Jalaun, Guna and Hamirpur, will be influenced by Ms Bharti’s presence in the region. Another significant votebank, of brahmins, may also favour Ms Bharti as she is a “sadhvi”, sources said.

Ms Bharti, already campaigning in Jhansi, said only that “Ramdev is like a guru and younger brother to me”.

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