The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay bags lion’s share of seats

New Delhi, Nov. 1: The Congress leadership today announced the candidates for all but nine of the 230 seats at stake in Madhya Pradesh, in line with chief minister Digvijay Singh’s request for early finalisation of nominees for the December 1 Assembly polls.

The chief minister was present at the Congress headquarters when party general secretary Ambika Soni released the list. One seat was left for the Republican Party of India. Nominees for the remaining nine seats are expected to be announced tomorrow.

Digvijay has cornered a lion’s share of close to 140 tickets for his candidates. The rest has been divided among loyalists of Arjun Singh, Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Suresh Pachouri.

Congress leaders say Arjun Singh, who might not have managed more than 20 nominations for his loyalists, is a big loser though some of his relatives have been nominated on Digvijay’s list. In the 1998 Assembly polls, 40 loyalists of Arjun Singh were included on the final list of candidates.

Kamal Nath is believed to have got a better deal, with around 40 seats for his followers.

Digvijay downplayed the supremacy of his camp. “All are my candidates, my party’s candidates and the candidates of party president Sonia Gandhi,” he said.

The Congress leader, however, admitted that there might be some resentment about the final list and this was because of differences in “personal assessment” of a candidate’s chances of winning.

As Soni announced the list, Digvijay exuded confidence that the party would bag between 125 and 135 seats in the polls and form the government for the third consecutive term. The chief minister rejected pre-poll surveys, which did not give the Congress more than 85 seats in the 230-member Assembly. The figure would be the BJP’s final tally, and not that of his party, he said.

Contrary to earlier indications, only about 20 sitting legislators have not been fielded this time and some of them, as Digvijay said, opted out of the race in favour of their chosen successors. Besides, there is no major ministerial casualty.

As many as 34 of the nominees are women, up from 18 last time. Around 60 candidates are from the Other Backward Classes.

The announcement brought the curtains down on speculations on an open alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party, though Congress leaders have always hinted at a tacit understanding. “As of today, there is no understanding or any proposal to that effect. But in politics, situations change every day, and I cannot speak for the future,” said Digvijay.

The chief minister and Soni appealed to all secular parties, including the BSP, that wish to defeat communal and fundamentalist forces represented by the BJP, to support Congress candidates in constituencies where they have not put up their own candidates.

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