In a major exercise ahead of Lok Sabha polls, Congress on Thursday night constituted screening committees for all states and union territories for early selection of candidates.
"Congress President Sonia Gandhi has approved the screening committees for 2014 Lok Sabha elections," AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said.
Sources in the party ha
d indicated that the meetings of the screening committees to select candidates will begin soon after the January 17 AICC meeting in Delhi, where the party could name Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate.
With Rahul keen on early declaration of candidates for Lok Sabha polls, the party is understood to have decided to come out with a list of 150 to 200 nominees by the end of this month.
elections are likely to be held in April-May and the decision will give at least three months time to the candidates to prepare for the elections.
Dwivedi said that AICC general secretaries have been made members in screening committees of all states under their charge with PCC chief and CLP leaders being the other members.
The uniformity in the form of screening committees was one of the initiatives the party had taken as per the Congress vice president's transparency formula in party decisions.
Pawan Kumar Bansal, who had to resign from the Railway Ministry last year after a corruption controversy, is back with a larger role in the party heading the screening committees for crucial states Gujarat and Rajasthan along with Dadar Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, according to the list released on Thursday.
Rahul's close aide Jitendra Singh has been made the screening committee in-charge of electorally crucial Uttar Pradesh while Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde heads the panel for Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Andaman Nicobar.
Congress MP and spokesperson P C Chacko heads the panel for Delhi, Chandigarh, Haryana and Punjab.
Bhubaneshwar Kalita is the chairman of the screening committee for Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir and V Narayanasamy for Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura.
Mallikarjun Kharge is Chairman the Screening Committee for Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Mumbai while Vayalar Ravi heads the panel for Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Karnataka, Ghulam Nabi Azad for Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu.
Oscar Fernandes has been made Chairman for the panel in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
All the screening committees will have five members including AICC general secretary in-charge of the state, PCC chief and CLP leader and one more member.
Apart from the chairman and the usual members holding these posts, each screening committee has one more member. While Harish Chaudhary is a member in the panel for Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, G Chinna Reddy is a member for Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura.
Rahul's close aide Meenakshi Natarajan has been included as member for the panel in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.
Avinash Pandey has been made a member in the panel for UP, where there are 80 Lok Sabha seats.
Manick Tagore, another Rahul pick, finds place in the panel for Assam, Andaman Nicobar, Bihar and West Bengal while Paresh Dhanani has been included in the committee for Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Mumbai.
Congress spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das is a member for the panel in Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Karnataka, Subhankar Sarkar for Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu; Kuljeet Nagra for Gujarat, Rajasthan, Dadar Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and Deepak Babaria for Delhi, Chandigarh, Haryana and Punjab.
The exercise of finalising candidates will begin immediately after the AICC meeting on January 17, a senior party functionary said.
"We will be deciding candidates for much more than 100 Lok Sabha seats by the end of January," the AICC functionary closely associated with the exercise said.
The A K Antony panel entrusted with the task of drawing up an action plan for the party for assembly and Lok Sabha polls few years ago had recommended that the candidates should be declared at least a few months ahead of the elections.
The leader said it was not that every sitting MP will get a ticket indicating that there is a feeling in the party that not repeating some of candidates can help it tide over the anti-incumbency against the 10-year-old UPA government.
The leader said the party will finalise candidates for seats in Congress quota in states where there are alliances arguing that even if the seats are exchanged among the allies at a later stage, the names of candidates should be better zeroed in earlier.
The party has entrusted a bunch of leaders the job to collect information about constituencies including the names of probable candidates.