NEW DELHI

Tainted Cong. MLAs to face the axe

NEW DELHI NOV. 1. The screening committee headed by the senior Congress leader, Motilal Vora, and the team of AICC observers led by P.M. Sayeed today started the process of shortlisting of party candidates for the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections on December 1. The first priority was crossing out tainted and doubtful candidates or sitting MLAs in order to enable the party to reach a decision on their fate before going ahead with finalisation of the list of candidates.

It is learnt that the AICC observers, who also included senior leaders like Harish Rawat, Selja and Naresh Phugalia, met office-bearers of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee as well as the party ticket aspirants at the Parliament House office of Mr. Sayeed. Later, the scene shifted to Mr. Sayeed's residence where interviews were held and views of the various leaders were ascertained. It is understood that from the feedback received by the observers, it is clear that the party is all set to dump a number of sitting MLAs who have either become liabilities or do not enjoy good reputation in their constituencies. The party, which feels it is on a strong wicket in Delhi, attaches a lot of importance to the polls and is confident that with the right kind of combination and decision-making, it can meet the BJP challenge. The party is very clear that those with a criminal record or poor public image will face the axe.

Insiders said the party was unsure about fielding the two-time MLA from Tughlakabad, Sishpal, in view of his poor image in his area and the number of criminal cases registered against him for allegedly selling government land and land inside Tughlakabad Fort. The CBI has registered cases against him on May 5, 2001, and the Crime Branch of the Delhi police has also registered several cases against him on June 6, 2001, on these counts.

The CBI had also raided his office and residential premises and his public image has taken a beating over the past few years. Mr. Sishpal had contested the 1993 polls on BJP ticket and then defected to the Congress in 1998 and was given the party ticket. The name of O.P. Bidhuri, a Gujjar and leading advocate, is being strongly recommended for this seat within the Congress circles as he enjoys a clean image and good reputation among the area people.

Similarly, the party is seriously thinking of "retiring" the aged Moti Lal Bakolia from Karol Bagh (SC) seat. But it wants to replace Mr. Bakolia with a person of the same Reggar community.

The position of Darshana Ram Kumar in the adjoining Motia Khan constituency is also not considered very sound and the party is thinking in terms of replacing her.

The AICC observers also have shortlisted certain other MLAs whose position is doubtful and they could find themselves out of contention. For instance, according to the party assessment, the Narela MLA, Charan Singh Kandera, has performed poorly. The situation is no different for the Kamla Nagar MLA, Shadi Ram, Model Town MLA, Kanwar Karan Singh, who faces opposition from his mentor and former Union Minister, Jagdish Tytler, Najafgarh MLA, Kamal Yadav, the Palam MLA, Mahinder Yadav, who would be paying the price for standing bail for the godman, Chandraswami, for the past eight years. At the same time, the Nand Nagri sitting MLA, Roop Chand, is also facing an uphill task to retain his place in the party.

In the adjoining Seemapuri constituency, the sitting MLA, Vir Singh Dhingan, and Amrish Gautam, in the Patparganj constituency, could well face the axe in view of the lack of support among the big shots in AICC. In the Saket Assembly constituency, the party is in two minds over giving the ticket to the sitting MLA, Tek Chand, and he could well pave the way for a new candidate.

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