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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Senior Cong leaders in demand to counter BJP blitzkrieg

Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, April 13, 2014
First Published: 22:06 IST(13/4/2014) | Last Updated: 02:04 IST(14/4/2014)

This poll season, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh and union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad have emerged as the most sought-after party campaigners apart from with the top troika of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A closer look at the list of star campaigners of the Congress also show that the party is banking more on senior leaders than on Rahul Gandhi's youth brigade in its bid to counter the BJP blitzkrieg in key states.

For every state going to the polls, parties can submit lists of star campaigners—a maximum of 40—to the Election Commission.

The expenses incurred for these select leaders' campaigns in a constituency are considered separately and not added to the authorised poll budget of R70 lakh for an individual candidate.

The state-wise star lists also indicate the choice of the party's central leadership for key pollsters for multi-state campaigning.

The Congress lists submitted so far show Digvijaya Singh's name in all big states except West Bengal. Azad too, has been listed for all big states except Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

Road minister Oscar Fernandes, minority affairs minister K Rehman Khan, Sonia's political secretary Ahmed Patel, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and commerce minister Anand Sharma are among the other seniors who have been entrusted with campaign duties in several states.

Among the younger leaders, union power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has the maximum campaign responsibility.

While Congress spokesperson Randip Singh Surjewala has been roped in for some states like Rajasthan and Odisha, many other young leaders hardly find mention in the campaign list outside their own states.

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, another key Rahul aide, has been roped in for only for four states, including West Bengal.

Congress sources said more names are expected to be given for the upcoming poll phases but the preference for senior leaders is unlikely to change.


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