Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

The issue of “clean image” has certainly been put on the backburner

The party has also accommodated “dissidents” like never before

NEW DELHI: More than the manner of exclusion of former MLAs from the list of 53 candidates that has been cleared by the Central Election Committee of the Congress for the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections, what has surprised party insiders more is the manner in which MLAs who had been denied tickets in 2003 on various grounds have staged a comeback into mainstream politics.

So Tek Chand Sharma who had been sidelined in 2003 from the Hauz Khas seat on the ground of being “too old” has five years hence again got the chance to contest from Sangam Vihar, into which many parts of his old constituency have got incorporated. For a man who had been “retired” by the party against his wished five years ago, this new lease of political life is nothing short of getting an honorary post superannuation. It goes to his credit that the party has realised that his replacement in the past, Rohit Manchanda, was not good enough against the BJP’s Vijay Jolly despite having all the right political connections.

Another case in point is of Mahinder Yadav who was also as a sitting MLA in 2003 denied a ticket by the Congress from Palam. His “fault” was that some in the party considered him too close to controversial godman Chandraswami. But now that he has been given the ticket after a five year hiatus, the question being asked is what happened to the association. The party appears to have reconciled itself to the fact that Mr. Yadav remains its best bet for Palam as last time the seat had been bagged by Brahm Dev Solanki of the BJP.

In the case of Tughlakabad Assembly constituency, the story is more or less the same. The sitting MLA in 2003 Shish Pal was denied a ticket due to his alleged involvement in a land scam. But five years on that appears to have been forgotten and overlooked and the party now desperately wants to field a candidate who can defeat the BJP MLA Ramesh Bidhuri.

The manner in which the tickets have been distributed show a clear stamp of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s influence in the selection of candidates. The denial of tickets to these three former MLAs had upset her five years ago and of late she had maintained that if the party were to do well in the elections then the candidates with the best chances of winning should be given the tickets.

While to that extent the Congress may have done well, the issue of “clean image” has certainly been put on the backburner. The party has also in its eagerness to bring new faces and oust inconvenient ones accommodated “dissidents” like never before.

From Krishna Nagar in East Delhi it has fielded Deepika Khullar who had in 2007 won the Municipal Corporation of Delhi election as an independent defeating the party’s official candidate. However, that act of defiance has been taken by the party in the stride and she has been given the ticket.

On the other side of the city in Vikaspuri, from where the party is yet to finalise its candidate, one of the shortlisted names on the panel is of independent Councillor Nand Kishore Sehrawat who is not even a Congress worker yet. Talk of the party giving the principles a go by in order to find a winning team for the Assembly polls has cause a lot of concern among those who give more emphasis to discipline and probity in public life. Already many of those denied tickets are feeling bad. On Sunday two Councillors Hemchand Goel and Rajni Dagar resigned from the party along. And then former Badarpur MLA Ram Singh Netaji submitted his papers after being overlooked for the seat from where his arch-rival, sitting MLA and former Delhi NCP president Ramvir Singh Bidhuri would now contest on a Congress ticket.