Decision on the remaining 15 seats to be decided by the Screening Committee

The Central Election Committee of the Congress chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday cleared the names of 55 candidates, including 41 sitting MLAs, for the upcoming elections to the 70-member Delhi Assembly. It left the decision on the remaining 15 seats to the six-member Screening Committee comprising Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president J. P. Agarwal among others.

Party sources said all the names were discussed at length in the three-hour meeting of the CEC, which comprises Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, vice-president Rahul Gandhi, A.K. Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, Janardhan Dwivedi, M.L. Fotedar, Mohsina Kidwai, Oscar Fernandes, M. Veerappa Moily, Mukul Wasnik, Dr. Girija Vyas, and B.K. Handique.

At the CEC meeting, it was decided that the party would field 41 of its sitting MLAs. With this the party has ended speculation about continuing with some of those MLAs and Ministers, who as per the party surveys, were not expected to fare well this time. However, with the BJP already announcing the names of 62 of its candidates, the job of the CEC in matching the strength of its candidates against the Opposition had become easier.

The names of two MLAs which have been kept pending are new entrant Mohammad Asif from Okhla, who had won the by-election on a Rashtriya Janata Dal ticket, and Dayanand Chandela from Rajouri Garden, who was earlier with the BJP and had joined the Congress prior to the 2008 Assembly elections. Both these MLAs are named in criminal complaints and the CEC left it to the Screening Committee to take a final call on their candidature.

Incidentally, Ms. Dikshit has made it clear that she was in favour of giving tickets to these two candidates as there are only complaints against them and they have not been convicted of any crime. She has also insisted that their affidavits are before the Election Commission and it had also not found anything wrong with their candidature in the past.

As for the remaining 14 seat which have been cleared, party sources said the names would be formally announced either on Sunday evening or Monday. “The Screening Committee would again sit on Sunday to discuss the remaining 15 seats, for which the candidates are yet to be identified. We hope to complete this exercise by Sunday evening so that all the names can be announced together,’’ said a senior leader.

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