The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Operation pullout rolls

New Delhi, Nov. 14: The Congress headquarters here geared up today for another battle ahead of polls as the tussle for tickets ended with the filing of nomination papers coming to a close this evening.

Inside their rooms at 24 Akbar Road, top AICC leaders were busy brainstorming through the day in a bid to launch a reconciliation drive to ensure unity among the party’s rank and file after the last few weeks of divisive fight for tickets.

Reports have been sought urgently from Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — in that order — on party leaders who have entered the poll fray as Independent or rebel candidates after being denied nomination.

“Since the deadline for filing nominations ended today, we should be having a fair assessment of the problem before us in each of the states, constituency-wise,” a Congress leader said.

The party has chalked out a strategy to deal with the problem at the level of each constituency.

As many as 53 party central observers are being rushed to Rajasthan and over 60 to Madhya Pradesh. The list of observers for Delhi and Chhattisgarh are being finalised.

Most of them are MLAs from neighbouring states such as Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. Some are senior ministers. Their brief is to go to each constituency allotted to them and persuade the rebels to withdraw from the fray by Monday or get them to retire thereafter.

They have also been asked to help “disgruntled” local leaders overcome their disappointment over denial of tickets and work for the success of the official nominee.

“The strategy had worked quite well in the last few Assembly polls. We have made it more rigorous this time because unity is key to overcome whatever anti-incumbency mood there is among the voters in the four Congress-ruled states,” a party poll manager said.

The high command has also appointed super-observers at the level of revenue division to guide the constituency observers and act as a bridge between them and the leadership.

While the details are yet to come in, sources in the AICC said the problem of rebels was pressing and needed to be addressed on a war footing in Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.

In a few instances — at least four in Madhya Pradesh — the party had to change candidates in the face of strong local protests.

headquarters of the Congress in the capital wore a deserted look today as

The only visible activity in the headquarters was the preparations for the Iftar party that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will be hosting on Saturday.

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