| Sonia Gandhi talks to party leader Manmohan Singh in Parliament. (AFP file picture)
New Delhi, Nov. 2: Sonia Gandhi has asked faction leaders of the Rajasthan Congress to desist from holding group meetings here to press for allocation of poll tickets to their supporters.
Upset with the pressure tactics that could widen cracks in the party ahead of the December 1 polls, the Congress chief is understood to have conveyed the message clearly to the leaders.
“You should trust in the impartiality of the central screening committee headed by an elder leader like Manmohan Singh and not exert pressure on it,” a senior leader quoted Sonia as saying.
Three days ago, Congress Working Committee member Natwar Singh, Rajasthan deputy chief minister Kamla Beniwal, senior leader Sisram Ola and at least a couple of other leaders met in the capital.
All are Jat leaders known to be opposed to chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
A second group meeting, also representing the Jat lobby, was attended by Balram Jakhar and Ram Niwas Mirdha, among others.
All these leaders played up the Jat card and demanded a larger share of seats for the community. Sonia was particularly unhappy with the lobbying because it was believed to have angered leaders from other OBC communities and even the upper castes.
The party leadership is particularly worried about the likelihood of a Jat-versus-others polarisation within the party in the crucial weeks ahead.
A source said the danger is real because leaders from other communities have started convincing the leadership that the Jat lobby’s demand must not be conceded if the party is looking to consolidate the support of Gujjars, Brahmins and Scheduled Castes.
The momentum of the intra-party pro- and anti-Jat campaigns is building up in the backdrop of the Manmohan panel meeting to finalise the nominees for 200 Assembly seats.
The committee comprises Gehlot, AICC general secretary in charge of the state Ambika Soni, Rajasthan party chief Girija Vyas and former MP from Shimla K.D. Sultanpuri.
The committee’s likely decision has assumed significance after the state Congress, riven by factional feud, authorised the central leadership to choose the candidates.
The Jat leaders are said to be worried that they will have no representative on the Manmohan panel. This is perhaps why Sonia asked them to have faith in Manmohan’s fairness.
Most senior state leaders also consider Ambika a strong Gehlot-backer who is not expected to consider their claims sympathetically.
The central screening panel formally met in the capital today after Manmohan elicited the views of all senior state leaders over the last few days. The nominees for nearly 100 seats were decided today, sources said.
The panel is expected to complete the job tomorrow and the central election committee led by Sonia is likely to finalise the Rajasthan list by November 7.
The party’s election committee has already finalised the lists for Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram, which were announced yesterday and on Friday.