New Delhi, Jan 1: With its back to the wall, Congress has decided to declare names of candidates for all 70 assembly seats in Delhi even before the election dates are announced to give them more time to prepare for the elections which are likely to be held in February.
After releasing its first list of candidates for 24 assembly seats of the 70-member Assembly today, the party will begin marathon meetings of its screening committee from tomorrow.
The meetings of the panel led by M Veerappa Moily to recommend candidates will culminate in a meeting of the Central Election Committee chaired by Congress President Sonia Gandhi next week which will decide on the rest 46 seats including New Delhi, where former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had lost to AAP's Arvind Kejriwal in 2013 polls, which brought to an end the 15-year-long Congress rule in the state.
There has been speculation that the party is in a dilemma on whom to field in New Delhi seat from where Kejriwal is seeking re-election this time.
A senior party functionary speaking on the condition of anonymity said Congress is grappling to decide on whether to field a "local or some high-profile" candidate from New Delhi this time.
Asked about the seat, AICC in-charge for Delhi and party MP P C Chacko said, "We have not discussed New Delhi at all. For all the 46 seats including New Delhi, marathon meetings of the screening committee will begin from tomorrow.
The meeting of the CEC will also happen within a week after which names of candidates will be declared on all seats." There are indications that the dates for the election, likely to be held in February, may be declared by the Election Commission by January 10 and Congress intends to name its list of candidates before that.
"The first list of candidates has already been released even before the election dates are to be decided. Such early release of candidates' list is happening for the first time," Chacko said.
The Assembly polls in December 2013 had thrown up a fractured mandate with BJP getting 31 seats and its ally Akali Dal one in the 70-member House. Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, which had made an impressive debut in last Delhi polls, bagged 28 seats, while Congress was decimated with its tally plummeting to only 8, its worst-ever performance in Delhi.
In the first list, Congress has hence put its bait on trusted and known faces, as it tries hard to regain its lost ground.