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BJP’s Raja v/s Congress shehzade in Amethi?

New Delhi, Dec 3 (): BJP is strongly toying with the idea of fielding Sanjay Singh in Amethi , the Congress MP who switched sides, against Rahul Gandhi. Singh is considered a rival who’s a wealthy, flamboyant, and controversial local leader, who is known as Raja of Amethi. Singh used to be a close friend of Rajiv Gandhi.

A very senior BJP leader told ET that Singh, now Congress MP from Sultanpur and often known as the ‘rajah’ of Amethi, is being considered as the BJP’s candidate against Gandhi. The leader said BJP’s talks with Singh are progressing well. ET has learnt that BJP is making its offer to Singh with a promise to make him a Rajya Sabha member should he lose to Gandhi in Amethi. Congress is aware of the talks between Singh and BJP. Singh is disenchanted since he’s not being given, a major role in UP. BJP plan to field Singh against Gandhi is part of the strategy to go after Congress strongholds in UP.

The Congress winning 22 seats had surprised everyone in 2009 while BJP had won only 10 in UP. Now BJP wants to improve its UP fortunes as a key part of 2014 plans. If Singh, contest on BJP ticket in the Amethi area, it will be his third shift to the saffron party. 1998 Lok Sabha polls, Singh defeated a Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist Satish Sharma in Amethi. In 1999, Sonia Gandhi defeated Singh from Rae Bareli . Singh’s father, Rananjay Singh, was responsible for introducing Nehru-Gandhi clan to the Amethi constituency. But Singh fell out with the Gandhi clan after he joined VP Singh in 1988. He had left the Congress and won a seat for the NDA led by AB Vajpayee. Next year, again on a BJP ticket, he stood and lost against Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli. In 2009, Singh, who had by then rejoined Congress ,won from Sutanpur, and became one of the 22 Congress MPs from UP, a victory scripted by Rahul.

If Singh contests for Modi-led BJP in 2014, it will be his toughest fight, since Rahul won with a 3-lakh victory margin in 2009. BJP says there was no strong candidate against him then. Singh is locally popular and Congress in 2012′s UP assembly polls lost in all of Amethi’s assembly seats. Opinion polls have shown BJP lead in UP in 2014.