A crucial meeting of the Congress election panel for poll-bound Haryana witnessed a face-off between chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and state unit chief Ashok Tanwar over ticket distribution for the faction-ridden party, sources said on Wednesday.
Tempers were ignited when Tanwar vetoed as many as 15 names suggested by the Hooda camp, seven of which have surfaced in the ‘cash for change of land use’ scam. The main opposition in the state, the Indian National Lok Dal, had released video clips purportedly showing these Congress leaders asking for bribes for change of land use.
Sources said the party’s screening committee had earlier cleared 21 names for the October assembly elections in Haryana. It’s the screening committee that shortlists candidates for an upcoming poll and the list is then sent to the central election committee (CEC), headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, for the final approval.
The party has withheld names for eight others seats after the sitting legislators expressed their inability to contest the polls, said a state Congress leader.
Tanwar, who has the strong backing of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, objected to Hooda’s candidates on the grounds that the party had many other leaders willing to fight from those seats.
Tanwar made it clear to the panel that he would not clear the names of tainted leaders as it would send a wrong signal to voters at a time when the party was struggling to stage a comeback after the worst-ever drubbing in the general elections. The state Congress chief, who is expected to meet party president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul shortly, has left it to the party’s central leadership to a take a final call.
“Let them (Sonia and Rahul) clear these names,” he is said to have told the meeting.
However, when contacted, Tanwar denied there was any face-off and held that though discussion on several names was held — with varied opinions — no names were finalised. “Everyone at the meeting was in agreement that the party interest comes first,” he said.
When asked if he was against nomination of sitting MLAs whose names had surfaced in the ‘cash for CLU’ scam, he said he was “always a strong votary for candidates with clean image”.
He categorically said names had so far not been decided upon and remained under process.