NEW DELHI

Congress list likely today

NEW DELHI NOV. 10. The suspense over the list of Congress candidates for the Assembly elections continued to give anxious moments to sitting MLAs and ticket aspirants with guesswork and rumour-mongering the order of the day. Though many of the candidates have been "officially tipped'' to start work in their constituencies, an official announcement is expected only on Tuesday after another meeting of the Central Election Committee (CEC) headed by the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi.

The CEC meeting on Sunday witnessed high drama as it went about finalising the tickets for Delhi. The party is understood to have finalised candidates for at least 45 of the 70 seats and the rest are likely to be taken up during tomorrow's meeting. With Sunday night's meeting ending without any official announcement, there was speculation over who all had been dropped or who all had been given the nod. All the camps claimed victory but from the proceedings and the reports emanating from those present at the meeting, it was clear that the DPCC president, Chaudhary Prem Singh, had not been able to have his way. It is learnt that annoyed at the manner in which his supporters had been ignored in the distribution of party tickets, Mr. Prem Singh reportedly left the CEC meeting in a huff and was later closetted with his supporters for formulating his future plan of action. Despite repeated assertions by the party and the AICC leaders that all the non-performing sitting MLAs would be axed, it seems the party has backed out on taking a strong view of the situation. In fact, the manner in which a number of sitting MLAs, who had been marked to be dropped, are learnt to have made it again is quite clear that the party leadership has firmly thrown its weight behind the Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit.

In fact, right since the morning, as the names of those who have reportedly earned the nod of the party, started doing the rounds, the factional leaders started the assessment exercise. Calculations were carried out as to what damage had been inflicted and where gains had been made. It is learnt that the party has kept on the hold both the Gole Market and Babarpur seats and left the decision to the Chief Minister. Similarly, the party is in favour of fielding the noted social activist, Nafisa Ali, from either Kasturba Nagar or Hauz Khas and she has the support of the Congress president as well as Ms. Dikshit. In fact, it is learnt that Ms. Gandhi has even sounded the AICC general secretary, R.K. Dhawan, about this possibility. The party, it is understood, has cleared the names of all the sitting Ministers including, Ajay Maken, Mahinder Singh Saathi, A.K. Walia, Raj Kumar Chauhan and Haroon Yusuf. Similarly, the Speaker, Subhash Chopra, Deputy Speaker, Kiran Chaudhary, Chief Whip, Mangat Ram Singhal and a number of other sitting MLAs have also been given the go ahead to start work in their constituencies.

Although, the party still maintains that it has not finalised things and last minute changes could not be ruled out, but one thing is sure that the list could include surprises. Also, it is learnt that the party has taken a stand against giving tickets to the near and dear ones of the AICC leaders and instead concentrate on local talent.

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