NEW DELHI

Minister denied ticket, quits Cong.

JAIPUR NOV. 13. The dissidence in the ruling Congress in Rajasthan over ticket distribution for the Assembly elections touched a new scale today with the Minister of State for Prisons and Social Welfare, Chandrashekhar, resigning from the State Cabinet, on being denied the ticket.

Mr. Chandrashekhar has accused the senior Congress leaders of misleading the High Command and indulging in favouritism to distribute tickets to "incompetent and opportunist'' candidates and announced that he would contest the polls from Khairthal constituency -- which he currently represents -- as an Independent.

"I have resigned both from the State Cabinet and the Congress party's membership,'' Mr. Chandrasekhar told The Hindu over telephone from Alwar. He took strong exception to the ticket being given to Sampat Ram, who had fought the 1998 Assembly polls as a rebel candidate and was defeated.

Mr. Chandrashekhar said the Khairthal nominee had damaged the Congress earlier as well by deserting the party in 1975 and joining others. "It is strange that the Congress has neglected me even when I have been a dedicated party worker for the past 25 years,'' he regretted. He warned that the Congress would suffer heavy losses in Alwar region during the polls, while alleging that tickets for all the seats in the district, including Khairthal, had been distributed with "extraneous'' considerations involving some of the senior party leaders.

Congress has denied tickets to 21 of its sitting MLAs in the lists announced so far. Apart from Mr. Chandrashekhar -- who has been denied ticket -- another Minister of State, Taqiuddin Ahmed, is also not likely to be fielded as the party candidate. Keeping in mind the caste factor, the ruling party has given tickets to 67 persons belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

The Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, has sought to underplay the dissidence by asserting that the tickets had been denied to certain individuals on the basis of feedback from various sources. He told reporters here last night, after returning from New Delhi, that "by and large'' everyone was satisfied. He also hoped that the Congress would return to power with more than 153 seats, which is its current strength, in the 200-member Assembly. He said the infighting in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over tickets had already created an atmosphere of defeat in the Opposition camp.

Both the Congress and the BJP in the State have been facing large-scale dissidence over ticket distribution. Many leaders in both the parties have crossed over to others, such as Indian National Lok Dal and Social Justice Front, and a large number of rebels are likely to enter the fray