Tuesday, November 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Cong Gujarat list sans Vaghela
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 18
The Congress today declared candidates for 108 of the 182 seats in Gujarat, basing its calculations on caste combinations and local factors.

The party is likely to leave about three seats for the Left parties and the Lok Janshakti Party. The party will not have seat adjustment with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Samajwadi Party.

Party sources said though names of 174 candidates had been finalised, other names had been withheld for “strategic reasons.’’ PCC chief Shankersinh Vaghela, MP, is not contesting the elections and the party said that no one would be projected as Chief Minister.

The list released today includes 47 sitting MLAs, one MP, seven women and four candidates from the minority community. The list covers 32 of 58 seats in Saurashtra where the party had fared poorly in the last elections. The Congress has kept the KHAM (Khashtriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim) factor in view while deciding the candidates with about 70 per cent of the tickets announced today going to OBCs, SCs and STs. Today’s list has names of 17 candidates from the Patel community, which overwhelmingly supported the BJP in the last elections.

Interestingly, the Congress declared a candidate from Rajokot-II Assembly seat, from where acting Chief Minister Narendra Modi contested the last elections but it withheld names from Ellisbridge, Unjah and Vadnagar — which are among the seats Mr Modi may contest this time.

Party sources said the seats declared today were “non-contentious’’ where the selection of candidates was easy. Though party leaders maintained that other names had not been declared as a matter of strategy to first know the BJP candidates, one of the reasons for the delay are the claims for seats by senior Gujarat Congress leaders. Senior party leader Madhavsinh Solanki, who is reportedly unhappy over the distribution of tickets, today met Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Mrs Gandhi has not yet decided about the constituencies where children of certain senior Gujarat Congress leaders intend to make their political debut.

Releasing the list, AICC General Secretary Kamal Nath, who is incharge of Gujarat, PCC chief Shankersinh Vaghela and CLP leader Amarsinh Chaudhary claimed that the Congress was set to come to power in Gujarat and the party would go to the people with the promise of “peace and prosperity.’’ “We will again make Gujarat the mascot for development,’’ the leaders said.

They denied that senior leaders had been given a quota of tickets and maintained that winnability had been the only criterion for deciding candidates. “The release of candidates is culmination of a 200-day-long exercise,’’ Mr Vaghela said.

Describing the Vishwa Hindu Parishad as “anti-Hindu,’’ Mr Vaghela alleged that the Parishad was getting money from the BJP. He said the VHP was indulging in politics and was not pursuing welfare activities. He promised to create jobs, provide drinking water to scarce areas and give uninterrupted supply of power for 12 hours to farmers.

Mr Vaghela said Gujarat had slipped from second to 10th position in the development ratings under BJP rule and the ruling party was pursuing ``divisive politics’’ as it had nothing to show to the people of its five-year rule.

The PCC chief said that while unemployment in the state was on the rise, corruption had marked even the distribution of relief to earthquake victims. The Gujarat government, he said, had resorted to overdraft 22 times.

Mr Vaghela said the BJP was a divided house and Mr Modi was finding it difficult to choose a constituency to contest from.

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