M A I N   N E W S

Punjab Votes
Capt, Dullo meet Sonia
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 8
Having returned from a seaside holiday last week, Congress president Sonia Gandhi today got down to serious business of preparing for next month’s crucial Assembly elections when she walked down to her AICC office this morning and spent four hours at the party headquarters meeting party leaders, including Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and PCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo.

Mr Janardan Dwivedi, AICC general secretary in charge of Punjab, who accompanied the two state leaders for their first meeting with Ms Gandhi after the announcement of the elections, was briefed about the party’s electoral prospects in the state. The time frame for the selection of candidates and the party’s strategy for the February 13 poll, also came up for discussion during the 15-minute meeting.

“We told the Congress president that the party was well placed in the state and will emerge victorious again” Captan Amarinder Singh said after this meeting, adding that Ms Gandhi was pleased with their reports and also the fact that the state unit was working unitedly.

All leaders agreed that the selection process must be sped up and, as a first step in that direction, the Pradesh Election Committee (PEC) will be meeting in the Capital tomorrow to draw up a panel of three candidates for each of the 117 Assembly seats.

These lists will be forwarded to the screening committee, which is expected to complete its work by January 15 and send their recommendations to the Central Election Committee (CEC). Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Rajya Sabha member Mohsina Kidwai and Santosh Bagrodia, who have been named as the AICC’s election observers for Punjab, will also be giving their inputs. The party has also drafted two more AICC office-bearers — Lok Sabha member Arun Kumar and Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik — to assist with the Punjab poll.

There is an urgency in the party regarding the selection of candidates as their principal rivals, the BJP-Akali Dal combine has stolen a march and announced the names of their candidates who have already started campaigning.

Captain Amarinder Singh has repeatedly stressed that “winnability and merit” will be the sole criterion for the selection of candidates, a view endorsed by the AICC leadership. The party has also made it known that any attempts by candidates to abandon their constituencies and look for safe seats will not be encouraged and that only one member of a family will be given a ticket. The Congress has taken a cue from its experience in Haryana where it faced rebellion from party strongman Bhajan Lal even after the party went out its way to accommodate his sons and relatives in the last Assembly poll.

It has been tentatively decided that the Congress president will address four public meetings in the state - one each in Majha and Doaba and two in the Malwa region - sometime in the first week of February.



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