The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong in spot over nominees

New Delhi, Sept. 14: The Congress is caught between angering voters and angering its MLAs who are perceived to be unpopular as it gets ready to shortlist candidates for the polls to five states later this year.

Senior leader Manmohan Singh is said to have expressed concern over the widespread “unpopularity” of party legislators in all poll-bound states. He heads the Congress’ high-powered panel on election strategies.

The question for the party is whether the MLAs should be renominated or axed if they fail the “popularity test” in their constituencies.

Denying renomination to many of these legislators could incite a rebellion. But if status quo is maintained, “angry voters” might reject the party. That is the dilemma before the high command.

Singh is concerned about the failure of the elected representatives to identify themselves with the party’s development agenda, which could be the cause of their unpopularity.

But that is a larger issue. The leadership’s immediate concern is to pick the right candidates to give the Congress the winning edge in the polls.

The reports of the central poll observers party chief Sonia Gandhi had sent to each of the five poll-bound states show the magnitude of the problem.

According to informed sources, the number of unpopular MLAs is believed to be close to a hundred in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Several pre-poll surveys the party commissioned in recent weeks have confirmed the observers’ findings, the sources said.

One survey has listed the constituencies expected to witness a close fight between the Congress and the BJP. The survey has recommended dropping unpopular legislators from these constituencies to improve the party’s prospects of bagging the most seats.

Aware of the findings, some legislators have in a counter-move commissioned their own surveys in a bid to convince the leadership that they are still “winning candidates” in their seats. Some of the unpopular legislators are also canvassing with the leadership to shift them to new constituencies.

The Singh panel met on Saturday to deliberate on election strategy. The general secretaries of all poll-bound states were present.

It was, however, not clear whether the various reports and pre-poll surveys were taken up for scrutiny at the meeting.

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