Choice of candidates left to Sonia

NEW DELHI, DEC. 27. In true Congress tradition, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) has left the choice of candidates for the Assembly elections to its AICC chief, Ms. Sonia Gandhi. The 27-member State election committee met this morning and passed a unanimous resolution to the effect.

According to the PPCC chief, Mr. Amrinder Singh, the decision was taken to prevent infighting. ``We have decided to leave the choice to Ms. Gandhi, because the persons she selects will be acceptable to all of us,'' he said.

The screening committee of the party would meet in the capital on Saturday to shortlist candidates. The list would then be put up before Ms. Gandhi. The Congress had already decided to renominate 14 of its 16 MLAs and a decision on the other two MLAs was expected in the next few days.

Mr. Singh said there was a great demand for the party ticket and as many as 1100 people had applied for it. He appeared confident that in keeping with the recommendation of the Anthony Committee report, the party would be able to complete the process of selecting candidates by the first week of January.

Tension within the PPCC was evident even as Mr. Singh was emphasising the need to present a united face against the Akali Dal. His supporters distributed copies of a resolution, reportedly passed by five of the seven Congress Lok Sabha members, electing Mr. Balbir Singh the convener of the Punjab Congress parliamentary party, instead of Mr. Jagmeet Singh Barar, a known Amrinder Singh-baiter.

The discordant note, however, did little to dampen the confidence and the upbeat mood of Mr. Amrinder Singh who predicted a landslide victory for his party in the State. ``We are poised to get a two-thirds majority and the Akalis are on the run,'' he said. He also appeared confident of the prospects of an alliance with the Left parties.