The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gujarat test for Congress CMs

New Delhi, Oct. 9: Sonia Gandhi has made chief ministers of neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra responsible for about 60 Gujarat Assembly seats.

According top priority to the Gujarat election, Sonia has asked Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot and Vilasrao Deshmukh to spend considerable time in the state and concentrate on border districts. The outcome in these constituencies will have a reflection on the future of the chief ministers of these Congress-ruled states, highly-placed sources in the party said.

Sources close to Sonia said the unusual move of making chief ministers of other states accountable had to do with exigency to win Gujarat at all costs.

The three chief ministers were summoned to Delhi today to attend a coordination meeting chaired by Manmohan Singh. They were asked to mobilise resources and coordinate with the Gujarat Congress unit headed by Shankersinh Vaghela. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will go to Assembly polls by the end of next year.

In Gujarat, there are already 36 ministers drawn from the three states as “divisional observers”. These observers have submitted a list of 1896 names, who have applied for 183 Assembly seats in Gujarat.

The observers have been asked to give in writing their assessment of the Congress prospects, caste equations, major issues and the BJP’s strengths and weaknesses in each constituency. They have been told that if their assessment falls wide off the mark, they would be held responsible and may even be forced to vacate their ministerial berths.

Leaders said the party has undertaken an elaborate exercise to ensure that factionalism does not hamper Congress prospects. Senior state leaders Urmila Bahn Patel, Narhari Amin, Madhavsinh Solanki and Amarsinh Chowdhury were asked to share the dais with state unit chief Vaghela, interact with district-level functionaries and ticket-aspirants.

The list of 1896 aspirants has been drawn after the exercise and from Thursday, the pradesh election committee would meet to scrutinise names.

Two to three candidates will be shortlisted for each constituency and the list will be placed before the All-India Congress Committee’s central election committee for final approval.

Congress leaders handling Gujarat said the internal feedback was still good after the Swaminarayan attack.

“Our feedback is that the Narendra Modi regime is being increasingly viewed as one that has brought ill-luck to the state. Akshardham (Swaminarayan) is seen more as a security and intelligence lapse,” an AICC functionary said.

summing up a report submitted by the state Congress.

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