M A I N   N E W S

Selja, Viplove get Congress nomination for RS polls
Rahul’s key men Mistry, Digvijay also named party candidates
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Haryana decision surprises many

  • The nomination of sitting Lok Sabha MP from Ambala Kumari Selja has surprised many in the party
  • Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was rooting for either the retiring RS member Ram Prakash or state party chief Phool Chand Mullana
  • Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's last-minute move insulates Selja from any possible political fallout arising out of Hooda's opposition in the state
  • Selja accuses Hooda of neglecting Ambala and other LS constituencies

New Delhi, January 27
Ahead of Lok Sabha elections, the Congress sprang a surprise today with the party deciding to send senior leaders — Social Justice and Empowerment Minister and sitting Lok Sabha MP from Ambala Kumari Selja and top strategists Madhusudan Mistry and Digvijay Singh — to the Rajya Sabha.

The decision on Selja's nomination came past midnight today after intense deliberation through yesterday and today. Party sources said Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was rooting for either retiring RS member Ram Prakash, whose term ends on April 9, or state Congress chief Phool Chand Mullana.

Selja's nomination surprised even senior AICC leaders who told TNS that the move was a shot in the arm of the senior Dalit leader who leads the anti-Hooda camp.

Selja had won the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Ambala by a margin of around 11,000 votes. Given her anti-Hooda stance, she could have been faced with tough prospects in Ambala had she been fielded again.

The fact that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi decided at the last minute to nominate her demonstrates that her political future is secure. It also insulates her from any possible political fallout of Hooda's opposition in the state.

Selja has long been accusing Hooda of neglecting Ambala and other constituencies apart from his own assembly segments. Hooda has been in Delhi since yesterday and was keeping a close watch on the goings-on.

The Selja camp was seeking re nomination of Ishwar Singh, another retiring RS MP, a Dalit, on grounds that while Ram Parkash had been nominated twice already, Singh had been nominated only once. Selja's name was not even doing the rounds until it was announced.

Of the two vacancies arising in RS following expiry of terms of Singh and Ram Prakash on April 9, the Congress would retain only one while the other has gone to the INLD.

The name of former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit was considered from Haryana, but the state unit argued that naming an outsider would send wrong signals ahead of assembly elections in the state later this year.

From Himachal, the party has nominated former RS member and senior leader Viplove Thakur over state Congress chief Sukhwinder Sukhu, former Assembly speaker Gangu Ram Muasafir, and former minister Harsh Mahajan. The state unit disagreed on the nomination of former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit from there.

Meanwhile, Madhusudan Mistry, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's right hand man and his pick for coordinating candidate selection process for the Lok Sabha, has been nominated for the Rajya Sabha from the lone Gujarat seat. Another Rahul confidante, Digvijay, is nominated for the February 7 Rajya Sabha elections from Madhya Pradesh.

Mistry and Digvijay are critical to Rahul's future strategy, AICC sources said. "You need astute politicians in the Rajya Sabha," said a Congress leader.

Mistry concluded a novel exercise of centrally drafting a panel of probables for each parliamentary constituency at Rahul's behest. Digvijay, besides being the political mentor to Rahul, also heads the party's publicity and campaign committee.

Both Digvijay and Mistry had until a few days ago let it be known that they wanted to contest LS polls. Digvijay wanted to end his 10-year self-imposed political exile (started when he as the MP Chief Minister lost the state to the BJP under Uma Bharti's leadership). Mistry, a Gujarat leader, told TNS a few days ago, "If Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is in Lok Sabha, I have to be there to counter his claims."

Likewise although it's clear that the Congress is set to nominate from Assam its sitting LS MP from Sultanpur Sanjay Singh, the official declaration had not happened until late on Monday. Sanjay Singh was said to be in talks with the BJP to contest against Rahul from Amethi - something the Congress was working hard to prevent. A safe RS nomination for Singh is being seen as a compromise formula.

AICC Treasurer Motilal Vora, 86, has been re-nominated to the Upper House from Chhattisgarh with source saying he has been rewarded for absolute dedication to the party despite age". Vora's current term is ending on April 9.

All retiring RS MPs from Andhra - KVP Ramachandra Rao, MA Khan and TS Reddy - have been renominated. Of the six RS seats in Andhra, the party holds four currently. It has decided to back a TRS candidate Keshav Rao on one.

From Maharashtra, retiring MPs Murli Deora and Husain Umar Dalwai have been renominated. From Odisha the Congress has named Ranjib Biswal, current IPL chairman and son of former Odisha Deputy CM Basant Biswal, its candidate. Biswal had lost the 2009 LS poll from Kendrapara segment.

Party candidates from Manipur and Meghalaya are Haji Abdul Salam and Wanshuk Syiem.





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