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Cong woos Kshatriyas and backwards

New Delhi, Nov. 18: The Congress is again experimenting with the Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim combination in Gujarat, giving these castes about 65 per cent of the seats in the first list of 108 nominees for the Assembly elections, with another large chunk ó about 30 per cent ó going to the influential Patel community, which has traditionally supported the BJP.

However, former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki, who is credited with creating the Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslims support strategy, was unhappy with the allotment of seats and has lodged a complaint with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

As many as 47 sitting MLAs have been renominated in the first list, including 17 Patels, 10 from other upper castes, seven women and the rest from the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward castes and minorities. On regional lines, the Congress list includes 32 candidates each from Saurashtra and Kutch, considered strongholds of the BJP.

The lionís share of nominations has gone to supporters of chief ministerial aspirant Shankersinh Vaghela.

The Gujarat Congress chief will, however, not contest the polls, in keeping with the party tradition of state unit chiefs not joining the fray as they are expected to campaign extensively, co-ordinate with the Central leadership and project a united face of the party. Congress chiefs have not contested Assembly elections held earlier in Assam, Bengal, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

There are indications, however, that the state Congress presidentís son, Mahendra Sinh Vaghela, would contest the polls and vacate the seat for his father in the event of the party getting a majority.

Several senior leaders figure in the first list, including former chief minister Dilipbhai Parikh, former deputy chief minister Narhari Amin, former Congress legislature party leader Naresh Rawal and MP Dinsha Patel. Parikh has been fielded from Dhandhuka, Amin from Sabarmati, Rawal from Vijapur and Patel from Nadiad.

Solanki and senior party leaders Urmila Bahn Patel and Yogendra Makwana have also succeeded in getting nominations for their sons Bharat Solanki, Siddharth Chimanbhai Patel and Bharat Makwana. Their inclusion was justified by AICC general secretary in-charge of Gujarat, Kamal Nath, who said they were already well-known names in state politics.

Other important nominees include Kashmira Bakul Nathwani, who has been made a candidate from Rajkot-11, which was won by chief minister Narendra Modi in a bypoll last year.

However, the Congress has so far not fielded anyone from Ellisbridge, Unjha and Maninagar constituencies from where Modi is likely to seek re-election.

Congress leaders have also made it clear that there will be no tie-up with the NCP and the Samajwadi Party. Party sources said the Congress is likely to leave only three seats for like-minded parties. Of these, one seat each could go to the CPM and the CPI, with the third likely to go to the Lok Janshakti Party headed by Ram Vilas Paswan.

Nath said almost the entire list of 182 candidates was ready but the party planned to release it in a strategic manner in phases, depending upon the BJPís candidates in those areas.

The Congress general secretary denied that Solanki was unhappy with the list.

He said the Congress had undertaken an elaborate exercise spread to pick party nominees. Twenty-eight ministers from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra had prepared a list of candidates giving rankings. Several surveys were conducted to identify nominees.

State leaders also gave recommendations. Sonia and the Congress Working Committee chose the candidates on the basis of this exercise, he said.

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