Sitting MLAs may be replaced with stronger candidates

With the Aam Aadmi Party making inroads into several Congress bastions, the ruling party has been compelled to change its strategy to beat the anti-incumbency factor.

According to party sources, a case in point is the R.K. Puram constituency, from where Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Barkha Singh is the Congress legislator. With former journalist Shazia Ilmi entering the fray here as the AAP candidate, the Congress is now thinking of replacing its sitting MLA with a stronger candidate.

This has brought to the fore the name of Social Welfare and Women and Child Development Minister Kiran Walia, who is considered a better candidate. “She was a Delhi University professor and R.K. Puram has a large population of government servants, so the party believes that Prof. Walia stands a better chance of winning here,” a senior party leader said.

Since that would leave Prof. Walia’s constituency of Malviya Nagar open, talk is rife of Delhi Speaker and former Minister Yoganand Shastri being shifted there from Mehrauli. “This would also address the anti-incumbency that he might have encountered in his constituency,” said the party leader.

In place of Dr. Shastri, the Congress is considering bringing in former Delhi Mayor Satbir Singh from Mehrauli. The party, sources said, is also pressing hard to field new faces and celebrities from key constituencies. Singer Daler Mehndi, who had joined the Congress recently, is the frontrunner to get the ticket from Tilak Nagar. Former Delhi University Students’ Union president Ragini Nayak is being touted to take on four-time BJP MLA and former Minister Jagdish Mukhi from Janakpuri in West Delhi.

Party sources said the names of 40 of the 43 sitting MLAs have been forwarded to the Central Election Committee, headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, by the six-member Screening Committee. The names of three MLAs were not sent due to their involvement in criminal cases. These would be now sent as part of a second docket, which would also have the names of shortlisted candidates from the 27 constituencies which the party does not hold.

While some Congress leaders insisted that 12 names of sitting MLAs had been withheld, a senior leader said that was not the case and there was, by and large, a consensus on 40 names.

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