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Congress ticket distribution is messed up

March 12, 2014 11:51 IST

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, one of the senior-most leaders in the Congress, is not too pleased with 'outsiders' such as Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Union culture minister and a member of Parliament from Rajasthan, wanting to contest from the Kangra seat.

Singh, a six-time chief minister and himself a former Union minister, is equally miffed at his Pradesh Congress chief, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, for opposing his choice of candidate in Hamirpur, with a large ex-servicemen population.

While Himachal Pradesh accounts for only four seats in the Lok Sabha, internal politics within the party is also holding up ticket selection in several crucial constituencies in the country.

Speaking to Business Standard, Singh emphasised "winnability" as the only factor for his backing of specific candidates.
Challenging the PCC chief in his state, Singh said: "Why doesn't Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu contest the Lok Sabha polls himself? He is a young man, why doesn't he contest?"

Virbhadra is openly backing independent MLA Rajinder Rana, whom he describes "as the best candidate to defeat the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party MP Anurag Thakur."

Singh's wife, Pratibha Singh, is likely to retain her Mandi seat.

On Katoch's attempts to convince the Congress leadership to accommodate her in Himachal, Singh questioned the "credibility" of leaders who shift not only constituencies but also states at will.

"Now she finds no place in Rajasthan possibly," Singh said.

Chandigarh is another constituency over which several senior Congress leaders have been fighting.

Union minister Kapil Sibal was initially said to be keen on fighting from his "home turf".

Of late, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari has been eyeing Chandigarh.

Notably, Tewari has also gone public with his view that "tainted candidates should not be given tickets".

It is an open secret that Tewari is gunning for former rail minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, the sitting MP from Chandigarh.

Tewari, an elected MP from Ludhiana, said: "Congress should not get into legalities and, instead, not give tickets to those who are facing even allegations of corruption."

The Congress, however, officially backs Bansal. “He (Bansal) has not been named in any FIR (first information report). His nephew has been, so how can he be labelled as tainted?” countered party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed.

The announcement for the Pune seat in Maharashtra, a stronghold of Suresh Kalmadi, has also been held up. While it is almost certain Kalmadi would not be given the ticket, his wife was being pitted as a contender, as it is a family bastion. While former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan’s chances of bagging a seat are bleak as a fallout of the Adarsh scandal, his wife is a strong contender for the Nanded seat.

With internal bickering adding to the woes of seat distribution, the Central Election Coordination Committee has refrained from announcing candidates for any of these constituencies.

Kavita Chowdhury