Around 50 senior Congress leaders including Prakash Jaiswal, Begum Noorbano, Pradeep Jain Arya, Chaudhary Vijendra Singh, Rashid Alvi, R.P.N. Singh, Salman Khurshid, Saleem Sherwani, Ratna Singh, Jitin Prasada and Imran Masood have apparently been asked to contest next year’s Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Many of them are unsure of the constituency to choose and, according to sources, face grim prospects as per “ground reports” collected by the party from some constituencies.

According to a source who claims to have been closely following Congress’ UP incharge Ghulam Nabi Azad, all these leaders have been asked to gear up for polls. “In one of the meetings between Azad and Congress’ poll consultant Prashant Kishor, it was discussed that fielding senior and known leaders will keep the party in news and may bring positive results,” the source said.

The Sunday Guardian asked some of these leaders whether they were going to contest the 2017 elections. Rajkumari Ratna Singh, a former MP from Pratapgarh, categorically denied that she would contest the polls. Rashid Alvi said that he was yet to be officially asked by the UP Congress Committee to contest the polls. But he accepted that he has been working with his team in Moradabad constituency.  People close to him said that it was almost certain that he would contest from Moradabad. Alvi had in the past contested parliamentary polls from neighbouring Amroha.

Pradeep Jain said that he considered himself a soldier of the party and was ready to obey any command of the party high command. “I will contest from anywhere my party wants me to,” he said. Sources said that he might be fielded from one of the constituencies of Meerut district. Jain belongs to the area.

Similarly, Jitin Prasada is said to be certainly contesting from Shajehanpur and Chaudhary Vijender Singh from Aligarh. Congress’ Chief Ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit, former Delhi CM, last week said in Kanpur that she would not contest the elections as that might disturb her campaign in the state.  But some party sources said that Dikshit may be fielded from Noida or Ghaziabad, Delhi’s nearby districts.

Imran Masood said he would contest from anywhere, but most preferably from Saharanpur. Saharanpur is said to be the strongest pocket for Congress in Western Uttar Pradesh because of Masood’s popular as well as controversial personality.

People close to Begum Noorbano in Rampur hinted that she might contest against SP’s strongman Azam Khan.

But despite such enthusiasm, sources said that as per an internal party assessment of senior leaders based on reports collected from some constituencies, the situation is depressing.

“Like in Farrukhabad from where former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will be contesting, prospects are not said to be bright. Same is the case in Agra, from where new UPCC chief Raj Babbar is likely to be fielded. Actually, except for Shahjehanpur and Saharanpur, the likely constituencies of Prasada and Masood, respectively, no other seat could be called safe for the Congress leaders,” said a source in the UPCC.

The source added that if all these leaders have to contest the polls, they will have to search for suitable constituencies and would have to start working there now onwards.

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