18 November 2002
GUJARAT PARTIAL LIST OF CONGRESS AMID FACTIONALISM
From Jal Khambata
NEW DELHI: Intention faction fights among the Congress leaders of Gujarat came out in open on Monday with the accusing finger raised against Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief cornering away majority of the 108 seats for which candidates were announced within hours of the Election Commission setting in motion the process for the Assembly elections.
The Congress, however, broke its past tradition of holding back the names until the last two, three days of nomination, and were ahead of the rival BJP which began the exercise for selecting own candidates only three hours later at a meeting in the Prime Minister's house.
AICC General Secretary Kamal Nath, incharge of Gujarat state at the party headquarters, was bombarded with questions on factionalism by reporters who were approached by various state leaders to complain that the seasoned leaders had been ignored and Vaghela's candidates have been given preference on as many as 60 seats.
The state leaders could be heard even complaining that the Congress may lose the battle already won from the misrule of the BJP because of inexperienced and "chamchas" being given preference and the party interests were ignored to give weightage to personal interests. In the Gujarat Bhawan, Gujarat Youth Congress chief Bhavesh Lakhani was roughed up by angry aspirants and supporters who were disappointed.
Among those making a beeline to Congress President Sonia Gandhi to lodge protest at the selection of candidates included former chief ministers Madhavsinh Solanki and Amarsinh Chaudhary. Vaghela also had a separate meeting with her.
Kamal Nath, who was flanked by Vaghela and CLP leader Amarsinh Chaudhary at the Press conference at the AICC headquarters, however, asserted that there was no partiality in giving ticket nor any factionalism. "In politics, it is natural that some get more and some get less seats," he sought to explain.
He pointed out that the party had drawn up the list of candidates not on the basis of the weight carried by each senior state leader but through a process specially chosen to ensure that the "winning candidates" are chosen.
The AICC General Secretary disclosed that the party had sent out coordinators and observers to all the districts to assess the winnability of candidates and had given them marks on the scale of 10. The names so shortlisted were minutely examined before finalising the list.
Vaghela chipped in to point out that the Congress had been able to take a lead in announcing its candidates before the BJP even discusses the list only because of "200 days of spadework" done by the party observers in the districts to pick up the best candidates.
Asked how many candidates of Vaghela or those belonging to his erstwhile Rashtriya Janata Party got the ticket, Kamal Nath shot back that "we did not consider that as basis of selection." Vaghela chipped in that all 182 candidates to be fielded by the Congress "belong to my party," meaning Congress.
While releasing the first "Partial List" of 108 candidates, Kamal Nath said most of the other names have also been finalised but they would be released in a strategic manner. Still the Congress has not declared names for all seats and hence its doors were open for seat adjustment with other likeminded parties, he said.
Among those getting the ticket is Kaira MP Dinsha Patel, 47 MLAs of the dissolved House and seven women. Former Chief Minister and CLP leader Amarsinh Chaudhary is seeking re-election from Khedbrahma constituency and hence there are now only remote chances that his son also gets the ticket.
Kamal Nath, in fact, emphasized that no son of any senior leader has been given the ticket in the first list while sons of Madhavsinh and former Union Minister Urmila patel, Bharat from Borsad and Siddharth from Dabhoi, who had been given ticket were already members of the dissolved Assembly. Kamal Nath, however, wriggled out when asked pointedly whether any more names of the sons are ruled out.
The general complaint heard from the frustrated ticket aspirants and their senior leaders was that the leadership has preferred younger generation over experienced hands. There were also complaints that Patels and Thakurs have been given preference in selection of candidates but Kamal Nath stoutly denied such bias and pointed out that only the "winnability" was the criteria.
Prominent among those figuring in the first list include former chief minister Dilip Parikh of Vaghela group from Dhandhuka, former minister Narhari Amin, Navin Chandra Ravani and Manoharsinh Jadeja from Rajkot-I. Mrs Kashmira Bakul Nathwani is the party's candidate from Rajkot-II which had returned Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the byelection. The Rajkot rural seat has gone to Mrs Shantaben Chavda.
Shaktisinh Gohi has been given the Bavnagar South seat while former MP Chittubhai Gamit is contesting from Mahuva ST constituency. Chatursinh Chavda is the Congress candidate from Gandhinagar while Mehsana seat has gone to Jivabhai Patel.
Chandrakant Srivastava is the Congerss candidate for Baroda city while other candidates in the city are: Dalsukhbhai Prajapati from Sayajiganj and Rameshbhai patel from Raopura. Pravinbhai Patel s contesting from Vaghodia. Godhra is among the constituencies where no candidates are announced yet.
Meanwhile, Kamal Nath and Vaghela said the Congress would be contesting elections in Gujarat with he slogan of "shanti, sukh, samraddhi aur salamati" (peace, prosperity, happiness and security).
Employment dole of Rs 2000 per month to some three to five lakh educated unemployed youths, drinking water and better electric supply -- round the clock electricity to single phase consumers, guaranteed minimum 12-hour supply to farmers and better power position for industries are the poll promises the Congress is giving, Vaghela said.
Kamal Nath and Amarsinh Chaudary pointed out that the BJP had nothing to show about its five years of misrule and hence it is trying to divert attention of people to the communal issues. They said the BJP never bothered to pay attention to the basic needs, be it electricity or water, and also did not bother to take care of youths and farmers. END