Clash at Cong. poll meeting

NEW DELHI OCT. 13. The second meeting of the Pradesh Election Committee (PEC) here today decided not to spoil the Diwali celebrations of the prospective Congress candidates and decided to shortlist them only after the festival is over. But the meeting saw a clash between some AICC leaders and those from Delhi over selection of candidates and also the norms to be adopted for giving tickets to the kith and kin of the AICC leaders, former MPs and some Congress Working Committee members.

The PEC meeting, which was saw the participation of the DPCC president, Chaudhary Prem Singh and the Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, decided to meet again after Diwali to decide on the list of the candidates and recommend the same to AICC leadership. The supplementary list of the candidates from all the 70 Assembly constituencies was circulated among the leaders and they were told to deliberate on them before shortlisting. It was felt that a decision in this regard should be taken only after Diwali. But the overall assessment of the PEC members was that tickets should be given to only those who had the capability of winning the polls and all decisions should be taken by consensus.

The party chief spokesman, Jagdish Tytler, said the meeting had been postponed till the conclusion of the Diwali festival and all members were provided with the supplementary list of the candidates. It was decided that consensus would be the approach of the PEC in deciding the names of the candidates for different seats, he added. He said the meeting went off smoothly and there was a general agreement to field the best team to meet the BJP challenge.

However, insiders in the party said the meeting had its own share of distrust. There was a argument between senior AICC leaders and some Delhi people over the criteria suggested for selection of candidates. Interestingly, it was the list of guidelines read out by the AICC secretary incharge Delhi, Anil Shastri, which triggered the exchange of words. At the outset of the meeting, Mr. Shastri declared that a criteria had been drawn up under which a candidate who had lost by more than 5,000 votes would not be considered for the party nomination, those who had lost the Assembly polls twice would also stand rejected. All the Councillors who had lost polls should not be considered for party mandate. It was also informed that some kith and kin of the AICC leaders and former MPs wanted to contest polls for which some criteria should be chalked out.

As soon as Mr. Shastri concluded, there were protests from the PEC members over the criteria. The AICC general secretary, R.K.Dhawan, reportedly turned down the criteria and said they would take up the matter with the AICC president, Sonia Gandhi. He is understood to have stated that only winnability of the candidate should be the main criteria and no efforts should be made to chalk out guidelines, which were not practical. He was joined in the protest by other members including Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler, J.P. Aggarwal and others who felt that the Congress had laid down no firm guidelines.

The meeting concluded without framing any guidelines for even the kith and kin of AICC leaders who want to contest polls. But no names were revealed of either the AICC leaders or the relatives who wanted to enter the electoral fray. Others who took part in the meeting included, Tajdar Babar, Kiran Chaudhary, Ajit Chadha, all the three Ministers, Mahinder Singh Saathi, A.K. Walia and Raj Kumar Chauhan.

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