In a first, Rahul appoints six-member panel to select a by-poll candidate

Former chief minister Hemananda Biswal will head the committee to recommend a “suitable candidate” for the upcoming by-poll to the Bijepur assembly constituency in Biju Janata Dal-ruled Odisha.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2018 22:22 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Rahul Gandhi,Congress,Biju Janata Dal
Congress president Rahul Gandhi during an 'At Home' reception organised on the occasion of Republic Day at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)

In a first such exercise in the grand old party, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday formed a six-member panel to select a candidate for a by-election in Odisha.

Former chief minister Hemananda Biswal will head the committee to recommend a “suitable candidate” for the upcoming by-poll to the Bijepur assembly constituency in Biju Janata Dal (BJD)-ruled Odisha.

Former Union minister Bhakta Charan Das, Jaggannath Patnaik, Sarat Patnaik, Nabokishore Das, and Anantasana Padhi, who is the party’s district president in Bargarh where the Bijepur seat is located, are the other members of the panel. The move is part of Gandhi’s efforts to make the candidate selection process more open and transparent and also ensuring the involvement of district and block leaders in ticket distribution.

Gandhi also met Odisha leaders to discuss the possible change of guard in the state unit. Senior leader Niranjan Patnaik has emerged as the front-runner to replace Prasad Harichandan as party chief in the state where infighting has escalated, especially after its rout in last year’s elections to the local bodies. The BJP’s drive to expand its footprints in the state has further rattled the Congress.

On Saturday, Gandhi also constituted a 100-member campaign committee for Karnataka assembly elections, scheduled to be held in April-May. While the ruling Congress is confident of retaining the state, the BJP is going all guns blazing to capture power. The Janata Dal (Secular) of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda hopes to play the role of a “kingmaker” after the upcoming polls.

The raids in 2016 at state minister DK Shivakumar’s properties, for alleged tax evasion, had kicked up a political row with the Congress alleging misuse of the I-T department by NDA government at the Centre to target its leaders.

Gandhi has made some key organisational changes in the past few weeks. K Raju, the head of the party’s Scheduled Castes’ department, is now working from Gandhi’s office. However, he is not a member of the Congress party’s core team. A former professional, Krishna Allavaru, was appointed as a party joint secretary and given the charge of the Youth Congress in place of Suraj Hegde.

First Published: Jan 27, 2018 22:04 IST