Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma today expressed his willingness to take on BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha election for Varanasi seat.
"Definitely. I will pack my bag and leave tomorrow for Varanasi if so desired by the (Congress) party", he told PTI when asked if he would consider fighting Modi in coming general elections.
Sharma's remarks came amid media speculation that a known Modi-baiter Digvijay Singh, the AICC general secretary, may be chosen to take on Modi in Varanasi. Singh had been in-charge of party affairs for UP for a long time.
However, senior Congress leaders concerned with nomination finalisation process feigned ignorance when asked about the possibility of Singh's candidature from the seat.
Sharma, Commerce and Industries Minister and a Rajya Sabha member from Rajasthan, belongs to Himachal Pradesh and is a Brahmin leader. There is a view in a section of the party that after the exit of sitting
BJP MP Murli Manohar Joshi from the electoral battle in the holy city, it will be advantageous for Congress to field a Brahmin candidate. Joshi himself was keen to contest from Varanasi but BJP leadership persuaded him to vacate the seat in favour of Modi. Joshi will now be fighting elections from Kanpur.
On putting up a joint front against Modi in Varanasi, Sharma said "we are very clear about it. Congress party is not going to vacate that political space of fighting the elections on its own symbol, its own candidate and own flag. It's a clash of ideologies. "Wherever he (Modi) will contest, Congress will fight against him...I am a disciplined soldier of Congress and I will be more than happy to take on somebody like Narendra Modi. It is for the leader (to decide)."
Congress leadership is already considering the names of three candidates for Varanasi. "Congress will field a strong candidate and we will fight with full strength," Sharma earlier said addressing a press briefing at AICC.
Aam Admi Party (AAP) supremo Arvind Kejriwal has decided to elicit public opinion on contesting against Modi in Varanasi on March 25. Sharma, meanwhile dismissed questions on whether Congress could support Kejriwal's candidature saying the question does not arise.
Among the local Congress candidates, the names of Rajesh Mishra and Ajay Rai are doing the rounds. A section in Congress wants an influential leader pitched against Modi while others want a celebrity to be fielded against him.