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Congress fields Amarinder against Jaitley from Amritsar

Posted on Mar 21 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, March 21 : Raising the bar for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, the Congress Friday announced that former chief minister Amarinder Singh will take on senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley from the April 30 contest for the seat.

Amarinder's name was included in the fifth list of candidates announced by the Congress in New Delhi Friday.

The former Punjab chief minister had Thursday expressed his reluctance to contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat but had later added that he would contest if Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked him to. After she asked him to do so, Amarinder agreed, party insiders said.

Congress activists and supporters went into celebration mode in Amritsar after Amarinder's name was announced for the seat.

The announcement of Amarinder's name will make Amritsar the most watched contest in Punjab as two heavyweight leaders fight it out.

Jaitley was named by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its candidate last week for the Amritsar seat. Sitting MP, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was overlooked by the BJP for the seat following serious differences between him and leaders of the Punjab BJP and alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal.

Sidhu had won the seat in 2004, 2007 (by-election) and 2009. In 2004, he had trounced seven-time Congress MP Raghunandan Lal Bhatia.

The Congress was finding it difficult to put up a strong leader from Amritsar against Jaitley. With Amarinder contesting now, things are unlikely to be easy for Jaitley, who is the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha and is contesting Lok Sabha poll for the first time.

Amarinder had been reluctant initially.

"Even if I contest and am elected as an MP from Amritsar, I will not be able to do justice with people there as compared to someone who would be local. Besides being an outsider, I don't know Amritsar as much as someone from that area. I will not be able to spend required period of time there," he had said Thursday.

The Congress also announced the name of senior party leader Ambika Soni, a Rajya Sabha MP from the state, for the Anandpur Sahib seat.

She replaces sitting MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, a grandson of former chief minister Beant Singh. Bittu's name had been announced earlier in the first list of Congress candidates.

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