The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong weighs BSP option

New Delhi, Oct. 8: Eyeing a possible pact with the BSP, the Congress has slowed down the process of selecting nominees for the December elections.

The high command had earlier asked state units in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi to speed up recommendations to ensure the process is completed by mid-October. However, only the Madhya Pradesh unit has sent in its recommendations.

The Rajasthan and Delhi election committees had held a preliminary round of meetings to shortlist probables, but the Chhattisgarh panel met for the first time in Raipur today. Sources said the recommendations from the three states were unlikely to come in before the third week of this month.

Nor has the high command looked in any hurry to begin the exercise at the AICC level. Sources said Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh had wanted the state lists finalised by mid-October but that is unlikely to happen.

Only today, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi set up central screening committees to scrutinise the recommendations before a final decision by the central election committee. The panels for the four states are headed by Pranab Mukherjee, Manmohan Singh, Motilal Vora and G. Venkataswami.

Part of the reason for the delay is the Congress’ dilemma on whether to tie up with the BSP. Some leaders feel an alliance would strengthen party prospects. AICC chief spokesman Jaipal Reddy indicated that the party was warming up to the BSP though it was keeping the tieup option open.

The Congress has come a long way from pressing for an inquiry into the Taj corridor scam six weeks ago to virtually endorsing BSP chief Mayavati’s charge that the CBI was being misused to corner her.

Chargesheeted Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi had alleged yesterday that both he and Mayavati were victims of a political conspiracy by the BJP-led government.

After removing a Dalit chief minister in Uttar Pradesh, the Vajpayee regime was now targeting a tribal chief minister, he had said.

Sonia today spoke up for the beleaguered duo, saying the attack on them appeared to be part of a “bigger plan” of the BJP-led coalition to “intimidate” the Opposition ahead of the elections.

Reddy said the charges against Mayavati should be investigated thoroughly. He said the role of central and state government officials, too, should be scanned closely.

Asked if this implied the Congress was inching towards a tieup with the BSP, he said: “It is too early to talk about alliances.”

NCP challenge

The Nationalist Congress Party will take on the Congress in all 90 Assembly seats in Chhattisgarh.

“If the Congress leadership does not want to remove him (Jogi) from chief ministership in the face of the CBI chargesheet, we will see to it that the people of Chhattisgarh vote him out,” NCP general secretary Tariq Anwar said in Delhi.

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