Election Watch | Himachal Cong begins candidate selection process, may re-field sitting MLAs

Election Watch | Himachal Cong begins candidate selection process, may re-field sitting MLAs

The Congress is veering towards re-fielding all its winning MLAs from last time for the coming Assembly elections. A meeting of state unit leaders was held in Delhi on Monday to begin the process of candidate selection, and sources said 36 names had been shortlisted in the first round.

More than 20 members of the selection committee, including Himachal Congress chief Pratibha Singh, Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri and Anand Sharma – the G-23 leader who earlier resigned from a panel formed for the elections – were part of the meeting. Also present were AICC secretaries and heads of organisations.

The Congress had invited applications from party leaders and workers aspirant for a ticket, and 1,347 people reportedly responded. The names will be sent to the Screening Committee, headed by Deepa Dasmunsi, which will further shortlist names for the Central Election Committee.

There are 68 seats in the Himachal Assembly.

Apart from the 36 constituencies on which initial consensus has been reached, the names for which there are more than one contender will be considered by panels. The Shimla seat – one of eight in the district – has received the maximum of 40 applications.

Sources said the Screening Committee is expected to have its meetings by September 15. The Congress’s Himachal Pradesh in-charge, Rajeev Shukla, will be overlooking the screening.

Naresh Chauhan, the Congress Himachal Pradesh vice-president, said that apart from winnability, age will be an important factor in the ticket selection. “We are looking for candidates who are respected within the party and have worked for it. We will also be focusing on fresh, clean faces and will target areas we have not been able to win in the past,” said Chauhan.

The party is hopeful of announcing the list within a month to have a head start in campaigning. While it anticipates infighting once the names are announced, the hope is that the wrinkles will be ironed out in time for campaigning.

The Congress recently announced its promises for Himachal, including 10 sets of guarantees such as restoration of the old pension scheme, Rs 1,500 monthly financial assistance for women between 18 and 60 years of age, creation of five lakh jobs, 300 units of free electricity, fair prices for crops and fruits, a Rs 680 crore start-up fund, mobile clinics, quality education, as well as purchase of 10 litres of milk from local producers and cow dung for Rs 2 per kg.