The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong survey scrub for Modi mud

New Delhi, Nov. 14: The latest survey in Gujarat may have given the Congress four seats short of a simple majority but an overwhelming number of Gujaratis say they do not consider the Congress an “anti-Hindu” party or agree with Narendra Modi’s reference to its workers as “Musharraf ki aulad”.

The survey conducted by a professional agency concluded on October 28.

Another feature of the survey that pleased party chief Sonia Gandhi, general secretary in-charge of Gujarat Kamal Nath and state unit chief Shankersinh Vaghela was that after the communal riots, the BJP was constantly slipping from a 120-plus high of April 2002 to just about 90 seats in the fourth week of October. The Gujarat Assembly has 182 seats.

Congress leaders handling Gujarat said Sonia is determined to turn the tables. She has instructed Nath and Vaghela to ensure that candidates are not tainted or have a communal image and that winnability is the guiding principal even if it means cutting down on the number of women and minority nominees.

In the event of a tie, a woman candidate would, however, be preferred, Nath said.

Referring to Modi’s charge of the Congress being a pseudo-secular party, Nath said: “We are considered a pro-peace party. The BJP is nervous. I want to ask one simple thing. If the BJP is so sure of Hindutva, why is it bothered about Patel votes' Are not these two contradictory'” The poll will be fought on local issues, he said.

The general secretary said about 10 sitting MLAs may not get the nod following the observers’ report.

“All the 63 sitting MLAs would not be renominated. At least 10 to 12 MLAs who have a difficulty in retaining their seats would be dropped,” Nath said.

The Congress central election committee, which met on November 12, had finalised 75 candidates and their names were likely to be announced in a day or two, the general secretary said. The party was waiting for the BJP to announce its nominees first so that it could rework its strategy, Nath added. The panel headed by Sonia will now meet on November 16 to finalise the list.

Despite usual pressure for tickets for close relatives of senior state leaders, the Congress is trying to set some “ground rules”. One criteria is to consider all those who are already in the state politics or figure in the panel of Congress nominees.

The Congress today lashed out at VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia for his remarks against chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh wondering how the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister could continue as mute spectators.

“How is that the VHP only thinks of a yatra when elections are on' Why is the VHP criticising the chief election commissioner who is appointed by the BJP regime at the centre'” Nath asked.

The AICC general secretary said it was chief minister Narendra Modi’s “duty” to comply with the election commission’s order that it should stop the VHP from holding its yatra in the state.

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