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Re-election: Who will Cong pick this time?

HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 11, 2013
First Published: 23:40 IST(11/12/2013) | Last Updated: 23:41 IST(11/12/2013)

Selection of candidates is going to be the biggest challenge for the three major political parties — traditional rivals Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and surprise performer, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — if Delhi were to go for a re-election in the next six months.

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While the BJP and AAP, with 32 (including Akali Dal) and 28 seats, respectively, in the 70-member house, would have no reason to not repeat their winning candidates, it is the grand old party that will be in a dilemma.

Despite resistance from state leaders, the Congress had repeated all but one sitting legislator on former chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s insistence. It also gave tickets to three more legislators who joined the party just before the elections. The move backfired as only eight of them could manage to retain their seats. The party came second on 16 seats and was relegated to the third and even fourth position on the remaining 46 seats.

Sources said Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had suggested replacing some of the sitting MLAs by new faces to diffuse anti-incumbency. “His formula of inviting application for tickets from workers at the grassroot level and seeking winnability report from specially appointed observers was completely ignored. We would have certainly won more seats if more discretion was used while giving tickets,” said a senior Delhi leader, requesting anonymity.

While Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Jai Prakash Agarwal refused to comment on whether the same candidates would be repeated, other party leaders said it will be discussed.

“Those who managed to win their seats would definitely have a genuine claim on ticket to re-contest. Those who lost by a narrow margin would also claim tickets. The central leadership will have to be really careful while selecting candidates,” another leader said.

Political greenhorn AAP, however, said it will repeat maximum candidates. The party leadership said there was no question of not repeating the winners. But their performance as an MLA in next six months will also be evaluated before taking a final decision.

“There are just 4-5 candidates from those who lost, who will need to be replaced. However, it is too early to say anything,” AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said.

While the BJP which emerged as the single largest party will repeat the 32 MLAs who have been voted to power, it is planning to repeat those who lost with a slight margin.

However, the party is seriously reviewing those seats that were considered the party’s strongholds but were lost to the AAP including Rohini, Greater Kailash, Shakur Basti, Tilak Nagar, among others.

“We lost a few seats because of the over-confidence of the sitting MLAs and those which were given to their sons or daughters. The national leadership is doing a strict stocktaking of the situation to ensure these mistakes are not repeated in case the city goes for re-election,” said a senior BJP leader.

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