Congress begins exercise to finalise candidates for 5 states

Written by: Pti
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Sonia Gandhi, Congress President
New Delhi, March 12: Seeking a third consecutive term in power in Assam, the Congress is expected to field most of its sitting MLAs in the assembly polls.

The party today started the process of finalising candidates for the five poll-bound states with the meeting of Congress Election Committee taking up Assam.

The CEC meeting, headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is learnt to have finalised the names of most of candidates for the first phase of poll in the 126-member Assembly.

Assam will have a two-phase polling with the first phase covering 62 assembly seats on Apr 4 and the remaining 64 seats on Apr 11. Counting of votes will take place May 13.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, leading the state for last ten years, is expected to have his way in candidate selection.

The CEC meeting comes two days after a meeting of the party''s screening committee chaired by Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The meeting, which was attended by Gogoi, PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita, AICC general secretary in-charge Digvijay Singh and senior party leader Oscar Fernandes (all members of the committee), was learnt to have shortlisted candidates for most of the constituencies.

Congress MPs from the state were also called in for the meeting and were asked to give inputs about the winnability of candidates suggested by the state Election Committee.

A piquant situation has arisen in the state with UPA ally Trinamool Congress deciding to field candidates in all seats with a view to expand its base to North-East, which could help it in getting national party status. The CEC is also learnt to have discussed the issue.

Congress leaders have, however, been putting up a brave face on the issue saying Mamata Banerjee''s party will end up dividing only the oppoistion votes.

However, another section of the party believes that Mamata's party could split Muslim votes there. Moreover an ally contesting against the lead UPA coalition partner will unncessary create confusion, a leader said.

The Congress, which is to contest West Bengal elections in alliance with Trinamool Congress, is seeking close to 75 out of the 294 seats in the CPI-M ruled state, while Mamata's party is ready to give 60 to 65 seats at the maximum.

With Congress not quite keen to see Trinamool Congress contesting in Assam, Mamata could use the card to prevail upon it to accept lesser number of seats in West Bengal.

The seat-sharing in West Bengal, negotiations for which are continuing at the highest level in the party, is yet to be finalised.


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