The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rahul recipe for generals

New Delhi, Jan. 1: The message has gone out from Rahul Gandhi’s war room: the generals will have to battle in the heat and dust of the heartland.

Rahul has asked all eight zonal in-charges of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh to contest the upcoming Assembly elections.

The Amethi MP is also keen that state Congress president Salman Khurshid be in the fray. “I will be happy to fight the elections and I will offer to,” Khurshid said. But many zonal heads are reportedly reluctant to contest.

Rahul has been busy interviewing prospective candidates for the last two months and has shortlisted 50-odd names. Apart from the Congress’s 16 sitting legislators, they include the first runners-up in the last Assembly and Lok Sabha polls and the zonal in-charges.

In the interviews, Rahul asks about caste equations in the constituencies, the votes polled in the last two Assembly elections, why the Congress lost, what the margin of defeat was, the number of booths and that party workers who manned them, sources said.

If Khurshid is fielded, he will opt for Farukkhabad city, according to the sources. Farukkhabad in central Uttar Pradesh is his family borough. His wife, Louise, is a legislator from Kayamganj, an Assembly seat in the Farukkha- bad parliamentary constituency. She had lost the 2004 Lok Sabha polls by a narrow margin.

Although the last time Khurshid contested was in the parliamentary polls of 1996, in which he was defeated, he has been taking good care of the Farukkhabad constituency.

The sources cited several reasons why Rahul wanted to field organisational functionaries.

One, to inject an element of gravitas to the exercise and not make the Congress appear like a “has-been” from the start. Second, he figured out that deploying the “heavyweights” would enthuse the cadre.

The third objective is to “demolish” the hegemony leaders like Pramode Tiwari and Jagdambika Pal have held over the Congress’s Lucknow unit for decades. The unit was reportedly unhappy with a perception that the local leadership was not serious about taking on Mulayam Singh Yadav.

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