BJP picks Smriti Irani to take on Rahul Gandhi in Amethi

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New Delhi: Television actor-turned-politician Smriti Irani will take on Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in his constituency Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP announced on Monday night.

After she was named, a confident Ms Irani said, “We will give a tough fight and win.”

In neighbouring Rae Bareli, the constituency of Congress president and Rahul’s mother Sonia Gandhi, the BJP will field a lawyer, popularly known in legal circles as PIL expert, Ajay Agarwal.

After his nomination, Mr Agarwal said he has been working in Rae Bareli for some months now. When asked about his chances against the Congress president, Mr Agarwal said, “I will defeat her.”

The BJP’s election committee, which met on Monday, reportedly discussed yoga teacher Baba Ramdev’s suggestion that senior party leader Uma Bharti contest against Mrs Gandhi, but there was no unanimity on this. Ms Bharti has already been named as the BJP’s candidate from Jhansi.

Smriti Irani is reportedly seen in the BJP as a candidate who can put up a credible fight in Amethi against Rahul Gandhi. The 38-year-old became a household name with a popular Hindi serial that stopped airing in 2008. BJP sources say Ms Irani has little to lose as she still has four years left in the Rajya Sabha.

In this election, political parties seem to be bucking the trend of not putting up strong candidates against top leaders of rival parties. The Congress signaled that change when it announced that Rahul Gandhi’s close aide Madhusudhan Mistry would take on Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, in Vadodara.

The party is yet to announce a candidate against Mr Modi in the other constituency he is contesting from – Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Sources said today that the party would announce a name in two days and has promised a tough fight.

The Congress nominee in Varanasi will also have to contend with Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, who has declared war on Narendra Modi.

The BJP reportedly held discussions with its ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, on who to field against the Congress’ top guns in the two constituencies that have been loyal to the Gandhi family for decades.

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