Cong. panel screens candidates

NEW DELHI OCT. 28. After having clipped the wings of the Pradesh Election Committee (PEC) in Delhi, the party's Screening Committee headed by Motilal Vora today held its first interactive session with senior Delhi Congress leaders at Himachal Sadan here. Various aspects of the poll process including the report card of the sitting MLAs, possibility of replacing at least a dozen-odd party MLAs of the present House and giving more representation to youth and women in the scheme of things were discussed.

Almost all the PEC members met the Screening Committee, which is expected to complete the process of consultation by tomorrow and send its recommendations to the Central Election Committee by this coming Sunday.

But unmindful of the consultations by the Screening Committee, which also included AICC general secretary Oscar Fernandes, a majority of the PEC members have drawn up a parallel list of prospective candidates, fully backed with their bio-data, and are likely to submit the same to the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, with their signatures affixed on them. The idea behind this exercise is to prevent any kind of mischief by the AICC leaders by including their own favourites in place of the party workers and those who have toiled hard to secure the party ticket. After having seen themselves being cut down to size, the PEC members, some of them veterans of Delhi politics, decided to take this step of submitting a parallel list to Ms. Gandhi who heads the Central Election Committee.

Insiders in the party said a large number of the PEC members talked about marginalisation of the PEC role in the election process and conveyed that some more time should have been given to shortlist the candidates. At the outset, the PEC members said they were happy that the Screening Committee, which provided an opportunity to air their views freely, was holding such an interactive round of discussions. The Screening Committee called all the PEC members individually. However, the former MP, Sajjan Kumar, expressed his inability to appear before the Committee in view of some personal commitment and is likely to meet them tomorrow. It is learnt that Mr. Vohra and Mr. Fernandes made it clear that no section should be left unrepresented and effort should be made to evoke consensus within the party over the issue of candidates. But the most interesting development of the discussions was the cropping up of the name of socialite and activist, Nafisa Ali, from the R. K. Puram constituency. It is learnt that majority of the PEC members informed the Committee that Ms. Nafisa Ali would not be able to do justice to this seat and the Congress might end up losing here. Similarly, the names of Bina Singh, daughter of senior AICC member, Arjun Singh from Hauz Khas and Arvinder Singh, son of former Union Minister, Buta Singh, from Nand Nagri, also came up for discussion at the meeting.

All the PEC members were told that they would have not only have to justify the backing being extended to candidates in various areas but also ensure that he or she wins that seat in the interest of the party. The members were informed to stick to their set of recommendations instead of touching all the seats in order to ensure their nominees get the full support of the Screening Committee. The Committee also discussed with the members the poor prospects of certain sitting MLAs and the performance of others. Later, the PEC members also met the team of observers from Delhi headed by the Deputy Speaker, Lok Sabha, P.M.Sayeed.

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