The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Survey cloud on Cong

Jaipur, July 4: A pre-poll survey conducted by AICC observers has suggested that the Congress is in for a tough fight with the BJP in Rajasthan.

The reports submitted by the seven observers, following intensive survey of all the 200 constituencies, should send alarm bells ringing in party circles. The survey has reportedly shown that about half the Congress MLAs are likely to lose the Assembly elections if nominated again.

The reports handed to the Congress general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, Ambika Soni, have recommended denial of tickets to 39 party legislators who stood no chance in the November elections. About 40 MLAs, the observers have said, could be reconsidered only after shifting their constituencies as their chances of retaining seats were not too bright. There are at least three ministers in this second group of MLAs facing the axe.

The AICC observers have found about 70 of the 152 Congress MLAs in the present House (including Mahir Azad, who had won on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket but crossed over to the Congress recently) fit for contesting again.

The survey reports were based on tours by the observers in mid-June to analyse the party’s prospects in all the Assembly constituencies.

The dossier the AICC members submitted also named candidates who could be fielded in place of those elected last time.

During the survey, the observers spoke to Congress officials at the district and block levels, ticket aspirants and dissidents. A list of legislators who got through with narrow vote margins in the last elections was also prepared to analyse their likely performance this year.

The senior leaders of the party would take a final view on the report cards before placing their collective opinion before Sonia Gandhi.

AICC secretary in charge of Rajasthan B.K. Hari Prasad has gone on record to suggest that distribution of tickets would primarily be based on the reports submitted by the seven observers. Hari Prasad had also said there was nothing much in the survey to worry for the party as there was enough time for recovery.

The Congress high command had instructed the observers not to take assistance from local party workers. The AICC provided them with vehicles to tour the constituencies and bore their other expenditure.

Party sources here said usually, such an exercise was taken up a few weeks before the elections. This time, it was done well in advance to negate the much-publicised anti-incumbency factor that is worrying the central leadership.

However, they also said that traditional Congress culture does not lay much importance on such tours by observers.

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