Congress likely to field 'new faces' for J

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Jammu, Oct 21 (UNI) Congress is likely to field new candidates in the ensuing Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir to overcome the lost public image over the controversial Amarnath land issue, particularly in its stronghold, Jammu province, sources said.

Poll panel of the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC, in its first meeting at New Delhi last evening, held under the chairmanship of Mr Saif-ud-Din Soz, discussed threadbare the strategy for Assembly elections in J&K, starting November 17.

The panel also discussed the criteria to be followed for the selection of party candidates for the Assembly polls in J and K.

''Though the chances of candidates' win will hold the main consideration for getting the party ticket, yet the emphasis was laid on having new young faces, with clean image for the J&K elections,'' the party sources told UNI.

The Congress high command, the sources said, was also of the same view of preferring ''new faces with clean public image'' over the ''tainted party leaders''.

The JKPCC poll panel would meet again at Srinagar on October 24 to finalise the names of the candidates to be forwarded to the party high command at New Delhi for approval.

The names of Congress candidates for J&K elections were expected to be announced on Octber 25, the sources added.

The Congress, which was leading the coalition government with PDP as its partner, has considerably lost its public image after the Amarnath land issue in the state, particularly in its stronghold Jammu, where it had a maximum of 15 seats out of the total of 20 seats won in last Assembly elections.

The people in Jammu almost deserted the Congress leaders to follow the agitating conglomerate Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (SAYSS) on the controversial land issue, which kept boiling for over two months.

Out of the total of 87 seats in the Assembly, Congress had emerged as the second largest party after National Conference, with 28 seats in 2002.

UNI VJ RSA SB HT1802

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