New Delhi | Breaking with past practice, Congress today released its first list of 24 candidates for Delhi Assembly polls repeating all its eight MLAs and 12 others who were runner-ups in the 2013 Assembly election in which the party had suffered a setback. Usually the Congress list comes during the nomination process. The early release of candidates’ name comes at a time when the party is desperately trying to regain the lost ground in Delhi which has a 70-member strong Assembly.
The last election had brought an end to the 15-year-long rule of the party led by Sheila Dikshit, who herself was defeated by AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal in her home constituency New Delhi. While Congress has so far not declared its candidate for the New Delhi seat, sources have maintained that former Chief Minister Dikshit will not be contesting this time and will remain a key campaigner for the party.
The new faces in the Congress list are ex-Mayor Satbir Singh, who will contest from Mehrauli, and Sachin Bidhuri from Tughlakabad. Five-time MLA from Matiamahal Shoaib Iqbal, who contested the last Assembly polls on a JD(U) ticket and had joined Congress on November 20, has been fielded from the same seat. PCC Chief Arvinder Singh Lovely, former Minister Harun Yusuf, Devendra Yadav, Jaikishan, Prahlad Singh Sawahney, Asif Mohammed Khan, Mateen Ahmed and Hasan Ahmed, who had won the polls last time, have been repeated.
Lovely will contest from his traditional stronghold Gandhinagar from where he was elected four times while Yusuf, a five-time MLA, will fight from Ballimaran. Jaikishan will seek a fifth term from Sultanpur Majra while three-time MLA Sawahney will contest from his Chandni Chowk seat. Khan gets renominated from Okhla while Mateen Ahmed will seek re-election for the sixth term from Seelampur. Hasan will fight from Mustafabad.
Former Ministers in Sheila Dikshit’s Cabinet Raj Kumar Chauhan and A K Walia, who were defeated in the last Assembly election, have also been given the party nomination from Mangolpuri and Laxminagar respectively.
Both Chouhan and Walia had represented their constituencies four times before they were defeated in the last polls. Besides Walia and Chouhan, ten other candidates of Congress, who had come second in the last Assembly election, have also been renominated. They are Surendra Kumar (Bawana), Bijender Singh (Nangloi Jat), Dhanvantri Chandela (Rajouri Garden), Mukesh Sharma (Uttam Nagar), Tarvinder Singh Marwa (Jangpura), Balram Tanwar (Chhatarpur), Subhash Chopra (Kalkaji), Ram Singh Netaji (Badarpur), Naseeb Singh (Vishwas Nagar)and Narendra Nath (Shahdara).
Bheesham Sharma, who came third in the 2013 Assembly election, has been renominated from Ghonda. A senior AICC functionary said that while the party has depended mainly on trusted faces in the first list of candidates, there will be more new faces especially of youth and women and intellectuals in the second list, which will also have some surprise names. There was a speculation that the party may ask some of its former MPs to contest polls but sources say that most of them have not evinced any keenness to fight. Some young former MPs, however, may be asked to contest.
Polls in Delhi are likely to take place in February and neither Congress nor BJP has declared their chief ministerial candidates so far. In the last Assembly election, Congress had fielded its three-time Chief Minister Dikshit and BJP had declared Harshvardan as its CM candidate. 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.
Arvind 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. Congress has also plans to hold a mega rally in Delhi to kickstart its poll campaign, which will take place any day after January 10, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi could address an election rally. Congress will go to the polls on the plank of development and stability, the sources said. While the view in Congress is that it may not be in a position to form government, it will better its tally from the previous election.
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