by Sanjeev Singh
The old guard still rules the roost in Congress.
If Rahul Gandhi wanted to dispel that impression, he certainly didn’t do a good job of it with the release of the party’s second list of 71 candidates for the Lok Sabha polls.
The first list of 194 candidates was released on 8 March, over half of whom were sitting MP’s.
All talk by Rahul Gandhi about his party’s stand against corruption seemed to have been taken a back seat to winnability. Former Cabinet ministers Pawan Bansal and Subodhkant Sahay were renominated from their respective seats of Chandigarh and Ranchi.
Bansal was forced to resign in May last year after his nephew was accused of taking bribes in return for providing plush postings in the Railways Ministry. Sahay was asked to step down as Minister in 2012 after he was found to have sought favours for his kin in coal block allocation.
Sahay welcomed the decision saying, “People of Ranchi have given me their love and affection. The delay in announcement of my name was of concern to the people there. I would like to thank the Party President for keeping in mind the wishes of the people.”
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh gets a 100 percent strike rate, given that he has managed to get tickets for his wife Pratibha (Mandi) as well as two of his loyalists Chander Kumar (Kangra) and Mohan Lal Bragta (Simla).
Kumar is up against former CM Shanta Kumar while Bragta had won the last assembly election from Rohru with the highest margin of over 28,000 votes. But Simla being an urban seat, the BJP has the upper hand. Mandi seems to be the only safe seat for the Congress, as it has an uphill task in Hamirpur where BJP Youth President Anurag Thakur is contesting.
The surprise package in Karnataka was State Youth Congress President Rizwan Arshad who edged out veteran CK Jaffer Sharief from Bangalore Central. Other candidates were on expected lines with tickets going to the likes of former Union minister Janardhan Poojary (Dakshin Kannada) and Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily (Chikkaballapur).
Despite the dominant Lingayat vote likely to shift to the BJP due to former CM BS Yeddyurappa, Congress is still hopeful of doing well in Chikkodi, Koppal, Chitradurga and Bangalore Central. Moily is on a shaky wicket from Chikkaballapur while Manjunath Bhandary is considered too weak to take on BSY from Shimoga.
Maharashtra has seen slightly younger candidates make it to the list, with Sagar Meghe (Wardha), Dr. Namdeo Usendi (Gadchiroli) and Indian Youth Congress President Rajeev Satav (Hingoli) all around the 40 year mark. But the going will be tough for most candidates. No alliance with RPI means Prakash Ambedkar has the advantage over the Congress in Akola.
Datta Meghe’s son Sagar, the sitting MP from Wardha, won the Primaries defeating former PCC Chief Prabha Rau’s daughter Charulata Tokas by a slender margin.
The Charulata camp will have to be managed by Meghe if he fancies his chances of winning. Recent entrant Vishwanath Patil has been given the ticket from Bhiwandi while Hatkanangle will see a tough battle between Congress two time MP Kallapa Awade and sitting MP and farmer leader Raju Shetty. Awade belongs to the Jain community which has over 8 lakh voters in this particular constituency.
The Congress was given Hatkanangle and Hingoli from the NCP quota this time. “We have given over one-third tickets to the youth in this list. Nine Youth Congress officer bearers have been given tickets.” said Madhusudan Mistry, General Secretary AICC and Chairman of Screening Committee.
Kerala is one of the few states where the Congress is hopeful of retaining a major chunk of the 17 seats it had won in 2009. Eleven sitting MP’s have been given tickets, while Kollam has been given to new ally RSP who walked out of the CPM led LDF after 34 years last week.
Idduki MP, PT Thomas has opted out this time due to pressure from the Church (SMC). The Congress also managed to subvert all its norms by giving a ticket to PC Chacko from Chalakkudi while moving Chalakkudi MP, KP Dhanpalan to Chacko’s seat of Thrissur. This was made possible after 4 hours of deliberation with Dhanpalan in Delhi on Thursday.
Congress had indicated it will not change seats of sitting MP’s to another seat, yet it rewarded Chacko for his role in defending the party as JPC Chairman in the 2G Spectrum issue. Chacko was facing heavy anti incumbency in Thrissur.
The party has also given tickets to old faces like Begum Noor Bano (Moradabad), Rita Bahuguna Joshi (Lucknow), Raj Babbar (sitting MP from Firozabad) from Ghaziabad while film actor Nagma finally managed to get a ticket from Meerut. Raj Babbar could be in with a chance if the fight becomes triangular between BJP, AAP and Congress in Ghaziabad while it appears more or less an uphill task for the party on other seats.
It has also given tickets to young faces like Tarun Patel (Domariyaganj), Lalitesh Pati Tripathi (Mirzapur), Mukesh Verma (Kaiserganj) and Rohit Pandey (Sant Kabir Nagar) who won the Primaries.
National Spokesperson and MLA, Akhilesh Pratap Singh says “Our leader has kept his promise of giving power to the youth. Rahul has ensured Youth Congress leaders get Lok Sabha tickets all over the country, especially UP. We have new leadership unlike others.”
The High Command seems to have done a balancing act between Rahul and the old guard. Though a majority of the seats given to the youth are seats where the party has little or no chance of winning, it still provides a face saver for the Gandhi scion.
But the seniors seem to have steam rolled over any of his concerns of giving tickets to “tainted” candidates, more of whom could figure in the lists to come over the next few days.
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Updated Date: Mar 14, 2014 09:52:01 IST