The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eleventh-hour Cong turns early bird

New Delhi, March 10: Departing from practice, the Congress today named candidates for 75 Lok Sabha seats, 59 of them sitting MPs.

The party, which normally announces candidates at the last minute to avoid bickering among prospective nominees, brought out its first list a fortnight before the Election Commission’s scheduled notification for the first round of polls on April 20. This is the first time in 15 years that it has done so.

Senior party leaders Shivraj Patil, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Kamal Nath, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister S.C. Shukla, Ghani Khan Chowdhury, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Jyotiraditya Scindia figure on the first list.

The document covers 17 states and four Union territories. Bihar and Jharkhand do not figure on the first list and only three sitting MPs have been cleared in Uttar Pradesh.

The sitting MPs who do not figure on the list may still fancy their chances of renomination even though party observers have said some of them are unlikely to win if fielded. Sonia Gandhi is among the leaders whose names are missing from the list, though there is no doubt she will contest from Amethi.

Bengal is the only state where all sitting MPs have been renominated. Das Munshi will fight from Raigunj once again, as will Khan Chowdhury from Malda and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from Behrampore.

Only four of the 10 sitting MPs from Assam have made it to the first list — Santosh Mohan Dev from Silchar, Dip Gogoi from Kalibor, Bijoy Krishna Handique from Jorhat and Paban Singh Ghatowar from Dibrugarh. Sources said party observers have recommended that five sitting MPs be dropped.

Twelve sitting MPs have been renominated from south Karnataka. Among those fielded again are C.K. Jaffer Sharief and Margaret Alva. The Congress’ Tamil Nadu unit had sought Sharief’s expulsion in December after he said Sonia should not be projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

The party has not announced a candidate for the Bellary seat which Sonia had won and vacated in 1999.

Shukla has been allowed to change his Chhattisgarh constituency from Mahasamund to Raipur. Former Gujarat Congress chief Shankersinh Vaghela has been renominated from his Kapadvanj seat.

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