New Delhi: Fifteen names have made it to the first list of Congress candidates for the 2019 general election. While four are from Gujarat, the remaining 11 are for the all-important Uttar Pradesh. 

Putting speculations to rest, the Congress has declared party president Rahul Gandhi as the candidate from Amethi while his mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi will fight from the traditional bastion Rae Bareli.

This makes it clear that Sonia Gandhi is not retiring from active electoral politics as yet. But the decision that surprised many was the inclusion of Imran Masood’s name for the Saharanpur seat.

Masood is the same Congress politician who had, in 2014, threatened to "chop Narendra Modi into pieces”. He lost the 2014 election and was jailed for his hate speech delivered in March 2014.

Masood comes from a family of equal dubious credentials. He is the nephew of former minister Rasheed Masood. the first legislator to be disqualified in September 2013. The disqualification took place soon after the Supreme Court gave a strong verdict, stating that any lawmaker against whom cases are pending cannot be a Member of Parliament. 

However, this is not the first time Masood is being rewarded. In 2016, he was made the Uttar Pradesh Congress vice-president, drawing the BJP’s ire.

But even then, senior Congress leaders defended their choice. Salman Khurshid came to Masood rescue at that point in time, saying, “You cannot hold a person down for metaphors.”

While many are not surprised at Masood being given a ‘ticket’, most are at the Congress’s gall of announcing his name in their very first list.

The first list of a party normally shows the names of those whose winnability is beyond doubt. The fact that the Congress included Masood along with the likes of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi has surprised many — even in Congress.

Close Rahul aide Jatin Prasad finds a place in the prestigious first list too. He will fight from Dhaurahra while Salman Khurshid will fight from his traditional citadel Farrukhabad. 

Annu Tandon will fight from Unnao, from where the BJP’s Sakshi Maharaj won last time. Another Rahul aide and former MoS for home affairs RPN Singh has been nominated for Uttar Pradesh’s Kuhi Nagar.