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No-contest democracy in Cong

New Delhi, May 6: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has favoured unanimity and advised against a contest to elect Congress parliamentary party office-bearers.

As the deadline for withdrawal of the parliamentary party polls scheduled for Thursday ended this evening, many party MPs who had filed nominations for different posts in the executive submitted withdrawal letters to the party’s central election authority chairman Ram Nivas Mirdha, party sources said.

With the letters in hand, Mirdha extended the deadline for withdrawal of the nominations till tomorrow evening. There was speculation that the deadline was extended to get some “adamant” members to withdraw their papers

However, sources gave a different reasoning. The idea of extending the deadline was to allow time to the party floor leaders and chief whips to arrive at unanimity on candidates for different positions, they said.

The leaders were expected to finalise the list today but deferred the decision till tomorrow. “How can we not publish the final list of contesting candidates if we say that the deadline is over'” asked one Congress leader.

Only the nominations of those who would not be considered for any positions would be announced as withdrawn, he pointed out. “As no decision was taken today, we have bought time till tomorrow by extending the deadline for withdrawal,” he said.

The parliamentary party executive has three secretaries —- two from the Lok Sabha and one from the Rajya Sabha — one post of treasurer, 12 executive committee members from the Lower House and seven from the Upper House.

All 12 executive member posts from the Lok Sabha were decided last week itself when the nominations ended. Only 12 members had filed nominations, leading to all of them being elected unopposed. But five members are in the fray for one secretary’s post from the Rajya Sabha and six members for the two posts from the Lok Sabha. Two members are in the fray for treasurer’s post — Suresh Kalmadi and Santosh Bagrodia, who is also the outgoing treasurer.

For the seven executive posts from the Rajya Sabha, 11 members have filed their nominations.

Apparently, Sonia has favoured unanimity as just a year is left before the Lok Sabha elections and she does not want to see contests within the party at this stage.

The last Congress parliamentary polls were held two years ago. The posts are by and large ceremonial and the election has not stirred any controversy as, unlike in the past, there are hardly any defined groups operating within the body.

During Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri’s tenures as party leaders, elections to the parliamentary party were an occasion for rival groups to test their strength.

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