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Bansal stays, Nagma debuts

New Delhi, March 13: The Congress today announced its second list of 71 candidates, which includes Pawan Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahay, two Union ministers who left amid controversy.

The Congress leadership holds that those not facing charges in the courts cannot be deemed tainted. Former railway minister Bansal has been named as a witness in a bribes-for-posts case, while Sahay had to quit over the coal-block allocation controversy.

While electoral logic supports Bansal’s re-nomination as he remains popular in Chandigarh, the Congress had initially been keen to replace Sahay after surveys indicated trouble for him in Ranchi.

It considered fielding actress Nagma from Ranchi but eventually accommodated her in Meerut, removing Dayanand Gupta whose name had been on the first list. Nagma has been a Congress member for around a decade and has campaigned for the party in several elections.

Another actor, Raj Babbar, has been shifted to Ghaziabad. Babbar had defeated Mulayam Singh Yadav’s daughter-in-law Dimple from Firozabad in the last general election, and might possibly take on Rajnath Singh this time unless the BJP president changes his constituency.

There have been reports that Rajnath is eyeing the Lucknow seat where the Congress has retained senior leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

Shashi Tharoor, Veerappa Moily, Bhakta Charan Das and V. Narayansamy have been re-nominated although a couple of sitting MPs have missed out.

Begum Noor Bano, former Rampur MP who lost to Jaya Prada in the last election, has been fielded from Moradabad, Mohammed Azharuddin’s constituency. She is from the royal family of Rampur, which is next door to Moradabad.

Four candidates from the first list have been replaced, including two in Chhattisgarh. Ajit Jogi’s name still does not figure on the list.

Over a third named in the second list too are fairly young, with nine Youth Congress officials getting tickets. Youth Congress president Rajeev Satav, for whom a seat has been exchanged with the Nationalist Congress Party, has been fielded from Hingoli.

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s wife Pratibha has been re-nominated from Mandi. At Domariyagunj in Uttar Pradesh, whose MP Jagdambika Pal has left the Congress, the party has fielded young activist Tarun Patel. The veteran Janardan Poojary has been fielded from Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka.

Most party leaders feel that the selection of candidates so far has been dictated by merit, and that the handful of “creative experiments” that have been tried might pay off. Unlike the past, there have hardly been any protests or rebellions.

Rahul Gandhi is handling ticket distribution, relying on party inputs, political assessment and professional surveys.