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All eyes on Meghalaya Cong selection panel

- Ambika Soni to lead screening committee for poll candidates; bid to stem rebellion

Shillong, Dec. 25: All eyes are now on the Ambika Soni-led Congress screening committee where the list of ruling party candidates will be readied before AICC president Sonia Gandhi gives her stamp of approval.

Soni was yesterday appointed chairperson of the committee for the Meghalaya Assembly polls slated to be held in February-March next year.

The committee members include Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko, AICC general secretary in-charge of Meghalaya Dhaniram Shandil, Meghalaya PCC chief D.D. Lapang and chief minister Mukul Sangma.

Last month, the state election committee cleared the names of candidates in 46 of the 60 constituencies while names of candidates for the remaining seats were kept in abeyance.

The task of the screening committee will be to vet the list of candidates prepared by the state election committee.

It will also go through the list provided by AICC observers in relation to those constituencies where there is intense fight among contenders for the party ticket.

After the screening committee prepares the list, the same will be handed to the central election committee headed by AICC president Sonia Gandhi who will also give the final stamp of approval.

The Soni-led committee is expected to meet in the next few days and the final list is expected to be out by the second week of January, sources said.

“With intense factionalism and fight in some of the crucial constituencies, it will not be an easy task for the screening committee to prepare the list. The committee will have to ensure that no major rebellion ensues after the final list is released,” a Congress leader said.

The committee will also look into the issue of denying tickets to some sitting Congress legislators. There are reports that at least two such legislators are certain to lose the ticket to either greenhorns or other current legislators.

“The ruling party in the state has been treading cautiously on the issue of ticket distribution. The delay in constituting the screening committee is a pointer that the Congress is trying hard to suppress any form of rebellion within the party, which may stem from those disgruntled aspirants who will be eventually denied tickets,” the Congress leader added.

The Congress, which heads the current Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA) government, is looking at garnering an absolute majority in the Assembly elections.

In the last elections held in 2008, the party won in 25 constituencies, mostly in the Khasi-Jaintia hills region. It currently has 28 legislators.


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