Sonia Gandhi to decide Cong candidates for JK

No Consensus At Crucial Meet; Azad Front-Runner For Udhampur-Doda Seat; Announcement Likely Today

ABID BASHIR

Srinagar, Mar 18: After failing to evolve consensus over two crucial Lok Sabha seats, Udhampur-Doda and Ladakh in J&K, the top Congress leaders Tuesday authorized AICC president Sonia Gandhi to take a final call on the nominations.
According to highly placed Congress sources, there was stiff opposition to the candidature of sitting MP Chaudhary Lal Singh for Udhampur-Doda seat at today’s party meeting in New Delhi paving the way for nomination of Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad for the said seat.
Reliable sources said Azad has “agreed in principle” to contest from Udhampur seat in the party’s interest following the request from the high command.
The party is likely to announce his candidature today after Sonia’s nod.
The Congress party is also facing fissures in its rank and file over the nomination of candidate for the Ladakh seat. The decision to leave the ball in Sonia’s court was taken after a marathon meeting in New Delhi this evening chaired by the Congress General Secretary and J&K affairs in-charge Ambika Soni. The meeting was attended besides Azad by state Congress chief Prof Saifuddin Soz.
“I put forth my point of view in the meeting. Congress high command will take a final call now. The decision will be taken late in the night and then it is up to the party president (Sonia Gandhi) as to when she would like to make it public,” Soz told Greater Kashmir over phone from New Delhi late in the evening. “I guess, the decision would be out tomorrow (Wednesday).”
Sources privy to the meeting said Ambika was told that BJP had fielded Dr Jitendera Singh while PDP has given mandate to Arshad Malik for Udhampur seat and both were potential threat for the Congress.
They said Azad, however, preferred not to talk much in the meeting and instead stated that, “he needs a bit more time to decide.” However, sources close to Azad, asserted that the Union Minister has agreed in principle to contest from Udhampur in the party’s interest.
“Majority of the party leaders, both in New Delhi and in J&K want him to contest from Udhampur. We believe, he will contest,” they said. Interestingly, the sitting MP Lal Singh is camping in New Delhi for the past more than a week lobbying for the mandate. The high command has received dozens of memos against him from at least five legislators and dozens of workers from Chenab valley.
Many Congress leaders in J&K are of the belief that if Azad contests, he will not only win from Udhampur but also help party to tide over the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendera Modi wave in Jammu as well.
Azad, however, had denied that he would contest from Udhampur. “I will not contest as I have many other responsibilities,” he told reporters at Rajouri recently.
Pertinently, the last date for filing nomination papers for Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha seat is March 20. Though the sitting MP Madan Lal Sharma is set to play second innings, however, there is no official word about his candidature so far.
Sources said as far the discussion over Ladakh Parliamentary seat is concerned, the stalemate continues as Kargil and Leh leaders of the Congress are at loggerheads over the mandate. Pertinently, there are many contenders for the Ladakh parliamentary seat both from Leh and Kargil district. “From Leh, party has almost zeroed in on chairman Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Leh, Rigzin Spalbar while T Samphel, who heads Congress party in the district was under consideration as well,” sources said.
“However, Kargil leaders that include chairman LAHDC-Kargil, Asgar Karbalai and senior Congress leader Ghulam Raza have threatened to launch a stir and to desert the party if mandate goes to Buddhist dominated Leh district.”
In Ladakh, Congress sees BJP candidate Thupstan Chewang as a potential threat.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 18 Mar 2014 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 18 Mar 2014 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 19 Mar 2014 00:00:00 IST




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