A massive drubbing in the assembly elections a year ago has not stopped the Congress from falling back on its old warhorses in the big battle for Delhi next month.
The party’s second list of candidates, released on Wednesday, includes former Union minister Ajay Maken (Sadar Bazar), former assembly speakers Yoganand Shastri (Malviya Nagar) and Prem Singh (Ambedkar Nagar), former MP and Poorvanchali leader Mahabal Mishra (Dwarka) and former chief whip in the House Kanwar Karan Singh (Model Town). It even includes the names of some who were denied tickets in the last couple of elections.
The first list of 24 candidates announced a week ago also included many old-timers — such as Ashok Kumar Walia, Rajkumar Chauhan, Subhash Chopra and Trawinder Singh Marwah — as well as the eight who managed to survive a strong anti-Congress wave in the December 2013 polls.
The trend so far goes against the Congress’ earlier promise of giving tickets to fresh faces — the last two lists of 49 candidates having thrown up only six rookies. Two debutants who made the second list are Suresh Kumar, who will take on his father-in-law and senior BJP leader Jagdish Mukhi in Janakpuri, and former journalist Pratush Kanth (Kirari, north west Delhi).
Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh, however, said the promise would be fulfilled in the third list. “We will have fresh faces in the third list. This time we are going to fight the elections with a mix of experience and youth.”
“We have infused some fresh blood and have intentionally avoided candidates who are past their prime,” he told HT.
“We have also tried to include some popular and deserving local leaders who contested earlier but were denied tickets in the last couple of elections,” a senior party functionary said. “We have intentionally kept out those who got less than 20% of the votes polled in their constituencies in the last elections.”
But for now, the party seems to be going for the tried and tested. Prem Singh is a champion as far as polls go, holding the record for contesting and winning 10 elections from Ambedkar Nagar. His only loss came in 2013 when he was brought down by AAP’s Ashok Kumar.
Mahabal Mishra was a two-time MLA before he was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009. Maken won three assembly elections in Delhi between 1993 and 2003 before getting elected to the lower House from New Delhi constituency in 2004.
Former education minister Kiran Walia is likely to contest from New Delhi this time, the seat held by former chief minister Sheila Dikshit till 2013. Sources said she would be named in the third list. Walia was defeated by AAP’s Somnath Bharti in Malviya Nagar in 2013.
After ruling Delhi for 15 years, the Congress was handed a debilitating blow by a rookie Aam Aadmi Party in 2013. Its vote share came down more than 15 percentage points — from 25.3% in 2008 to 24.6% — and its seat tally also fell drastically from 43 to eight.
“We have tried to counter the effects of disenchantment against some of our leaders by replacing them with young and educated candidates. We are going to the public with the work we did in the 15 years of our government between 1998 and 2013,” a senior party leader said.