Himachal Congress begins selection of candidates for year-end assembly polls early to prevent more exit

Despite internal squabbles in its state unit, the Congress has begun the exercise of shortlisting candidates for the year-end assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh with the state. Election The Committee (SEC) is holding its first meeting in the national capital on Monday.

The Congress had sought applications from candidates seeking party tickets for the assembly elections, the exercise of which ended recently.

The party has said that the application drive was successful with 1,347 candidates applying for Congress tickets in 68 constituencies, thrice in the 2017 assembly elections. While 677 applications were received online, 670 applicants applied offline.

“More than 40 applications have been received from Shimla (Urban),” a Congress leader said on the basis of information received from the state level leadership. The high command was keen to take an early decision on finalizing the names of the candidates.

Earlier, the SEC meeting was to be held in Shimla on September 2, but with the Congress rally in Delhi on September 4, the venue was shifted to the national capital. The SEC has 19 members in addition to all India Secretary of Congress Committee (AICC) and Head of all Frontal Organizations of Himachal Pradesh Unit. The SEC is headed by HPCC President Pratibha Singh and its members are Anand Sharma, Congress Legislature Party leaders Mukesh Agnihotri and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu.

Himachal Congress President Pratibha Singh said on Monday, “The shortlisted names will be sent to the Central Election Committee (CEC) soon. When the names for the 68 seats are announced, victory will be the most important factor.

Sources said the state unit is already grappling with differences with many of its senior leaders joining the BJP and the senior Congress leadership is of the view that the sooner the names are finalized, to quell the rebellion. The easier it will be. “Also, what is important is that early finalization will give candidates more time to campaign and establish rapport with the public,” remarked a leader.

Though there is infighting over the allocation of tickets, Congress sources said there was no dispute about candidates in more than half of the 68 constituencies. It is learned that the party may repeat most of its sitting MLAs.

Although the party leadership was enthusiastic about more applicants, insiders accepted zero application fee as the reason for the increase in applications. In the last assembly elections, around 400 people had applied for tickets.

Party sources said the SEC may reach a consensus on the criteria for candidate selection so that shortlisting candidates is less complicated and there are least differences of opinion. Criteria can include age and the number of elections lost by an individual in addition to the margin of defeat.

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