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November 7, 1998


Congress overhauls candidate list,
goes for 'clean image'

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The ruling Indian National Congress has focussed on a clean image, winning prospects, and the performance in the last Lok Sabha election while selecting its nominees for the assembly election in Madhya Pradesh.

The party has introduced many new faces and dropped some ministers and several legislators from its list while fielding candidates for 319 of the 320 seats in the state. Khairlanji in Balaghat district has been left to the Republican Party of India (Khobragade).

Many politicians who are either accused of corruption or are facing inquiries have been denied tickets. Besides, most of the legislators and ministers in whose assembly segments the party suffered reverses in the Lok Sabha election have been kept out.

Tribal leader and former deputy chief minister Pyarelal Kanwar and former minister B R Yadav, who were indicted by the lok ayukta in the controversial Madhotal land scandal, have been denied re-nomination in Rampur and Bilaspur, respectively. Both Kanwar and Yadav were dropped from the Digvijay Singh Cabinet after the last Lok Sabha election.

The Congress has also denied tickets to former industries minister Rajendra Kumar Singh and former energy minister Narmada Prasad Prajapati against whom the lok ayukta (the state-level ombudsman) has registered cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act and other provisions.

Rajendra Singh is facing charges in connection with the Indore Development Authority land scandal while the cases against Prajapati relate to the solar lantern scandal.

Other ministers who have been denied tickets are Tanwant Singh Keer (Khandwa), Dr Ashok Sawle (Betul), Jageshwar Sahu (Dhamdha), Dheru Prasad Dhritlahare (Maro), Raj Kumar Patel (Budni), Bapu Singh Damore (Jhabua), and Prabhu Singh Thakur (Beena).

Sahu and Dr Sawle had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Durg and Betul respectively. But Industries Minister Narendra Nahata, who had met a similar fate, has been spared.

Dhritlahare -- who won the 1990 assembly election as an independent from Maro, joined the Congress and won the 1993 assembly poll -- has been dropped.

Ministers of State Patel and Thakur have failed to get tickets for Budni and Beena respectively as the Congress nominees trailed by more than 10,000 votes in their constituencies in the Lok Sabha election. Interestingly, both Patel and Thakur were made ministers after the Lok Sabha election.

Former minister Jaswant Singh (Bareli) has not been re-nominated as he had expressed his unwillingness to contest the election.

Local Self-Government Minister Keer has been refused a ticket in the wake of complaints against him.

Pushparaj Singh, a member of the erstwhile ruling family of Rewa, was lucky to be re-nominated by the Congress. Singh was dropped from Digvijay Singh's government after the Lok Sabha election because the Congress candidate performed poorly in his Rewa assembly constituency.

Another former minister, Ratnesh Soloman, who had had to resign from the government on similar grounds, has been re-nominated for Nauhta constituency. Soloman, a Christian, is brother-in-law of Congress spokesman Ajit Jogi.

Another minister, Balendu Shukla, a staunch supporter of Congress general secretary Madhavrao Scindia, has been re-nominated from Gird though he had lost the last Lok Sabha election.

Congress sources argued that the winning prospects of these former ministers and non-availability of promising alternatives had prompted the party to relax its norms and grant them tickets.

The lone Muslim member in Digvijay Singh's Cabinet, Dr Hamid Hussain Khan, who was not a member of the Vidhan Sabha, has not been fielded.

Bodhram Kanwar, who was nominated for the Rampur seat, dropped out because his constituency was changed. He has earlier represented Katghora and Tanakhar.

In all, the Congress has denied tickets to about a third of its current legislators. Besides giving more representation to women, the party has also nominated more candidates from the other backward classes.

Party sources said the Digvijay Singh-Kamal Nath faction has got the lion's share of tickets. Congress Working Committee member Arjun Singh has managed to secure tickets for many of his supporters, including those who had stood by him when he had quit the Congress and floated the All-India Indira Congress (Tiwari).

Bansilal Dhritlahare, who was the state president of the AIIC-T, has been given the ticket for Masturi while Rajmani Patel and Premnarayan Mishra have been fielded from Sirmore and Sagar constituencies, respectively. Patel had lost both the 1990 and 1993 assembly elections.

Ministers Harvansh Singh, Subhash Sojatia and Narendra Nahata are prominent among the chief minister's supporters who have been retained by the party for the election.

Kamal Nath had a say in the distribution of tickets in Chhindwara, Betul and Mandla districts. He has also secured tickets for some supporters in Sagar and Narsinghpur districts.

AICC general secretary Scindia, former Union minister Vidya Charan Shukla, and former chief minister S C Shukla have all managed to secure tickets for their supporters in their respective strongholds.


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