The 36-member Uttar Pradesh Congress Election Committee began the exercise to select their nominees for the upcoming state Assembly elections, scheduled to begin from February 11, at the state Congress headquarters in Lucknow.
After an almost eight-hour long meeting, the panel confirmed 20 names, all of whom are sitting legislators in the UP Assembly. The panel, comprising state party chief and panel chairman Raj Babbar, Sheila Dikshit and Pramod Tiwari, will sit for two more days to finalise their list of candidates.
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Meanwhile, Dikshit, the party’s chief ministerial candidate, clarified that the quotes attributed to her regarding supporting young leaders was “misinterpreted”. The Congress, officially, plans to contest all 403 seats in the state. This could change if a pre-poll alliance is to happen. Pramod Tiwari said, “On an average, there are about eight to 10 names recommended to the election committee in each assembly constituency by district units. We are taking up the constituencies phase wise.” He said that apart from “winnability”, “loyalty” is also being factored in for the names.”
Outside the office, the idea of an alliance had backers as well as slammers from those who wished to stake claim at a Congress ticket.
Among such candidates was Birjesh Yadav, a claimant for Bhongaon assembly constituency in Yadav bastion Mainpuri district. Carrying photographs of the recent Kisan Yatra of Vice-President Rahul Gandhi in Mainpuri, Birjesh, who was initially given Congress ticket in 2012 but was changed at the last moment, said, “There should be clarity in our relationship with Samajwadi Party. For five years, people like us faced hard time in SP-dominated districts like Etawah, Mainpuri, Firozabad, Auraiya to maintain our identity and that of the party.
And now, closure to the election, we go soft on them. Either this way or that way, it should be cleared sooner. Such talks are suicidal for us at least in our region.”
Another claimant for a party ticket from Lucknow East constituency, Ramesh Srivastava said, “What if we align with Akhilesh but the other section led by Mulayam Singh Yadav fields its candidate on the seats left for us by Akhilesh? Then, who would give the guarantee that SP’s traditional voter would vote for Congress candidate and not the one fielded by Mulayam Singh Yadav?” The party is non-commital to the idea of an alliance yet. “We are finalising names on all 403 seats, what more could be said about alliance? Let them (SP) first settle their issues within,” said Pramod Tiwari.
Congress had won 28 seats in 2012, which later increased to 29 after by-elections but in past few months, as many as nine of its sitting MLAs have left the party to join other parties.