Days after Sonia Gandhi met senior Congress leaders and asked them to contest assembly polls, the party is busy making last-minute changes to ensure top leaders get their choice of constituencies. Among the five leaders who met Sonia on Monday, four told The Indian Express they will go ahead with what the high command will say.
Take, for instance, J P Agrawal and Alka Lamba, who both want to contest from Chandni Chowk. Agarwal, a four-time Lok Sabha MP, told The Indian Express: “We cannot deny if Sonia ji asks us to fight. If she wants, I will get into the field and contest from my own Chandni Chowk constituency.” Asked about Lamba, he said: “She will definitely be adjusted.”
In October last year, Lamba, who left the Congress in 2014 and won from Chandni Chowk on an AAP ticket, rejoined the party after several meetings with Sonia. Since then, she has been seen holding rallies and protests in the constituency. “I am the sitting MLA of the constituency and have been working with people on several projects. If I contest the elections, it will be from Chandni Chowk constituency only. I had conveyed this to Sonia ji too at the time of joining. However, I will follow whatever decision she takes. JP ji has been a member of Parliament for 10 years, he can take any of the constituencies, but I have no other option,” Lamba told The Indian Express.
On Wednesday, Congress loyalist Rajkumar Chauhan, who left the party after he was denied a ticket from the North West Delhi Lok Sabha seat, met Sonia, fuelling rumours of him returning to the fold. A four-time Delhi MLA, Chauhan was the Minister of Education and Social Welfare from 2001 to 2003. “Chauhan met Sonia Ji in the presence of our Delhi chief Subash Chopra. He has been promised an important role in the party,” said Mukesh Sharma, spokesperson of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee.
During Lok Sabha polls, the then working president Rajesh Lilothia was fielded in the North West Delhi seat. With rumours of Chauhan returning, the party might once again have to make a choice between the two, sources said. However, Lilothia, who finished behind BJP and AAP in the Lok Sabha polls, has suggested that he is open to contesting against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi constituency. “I have put forward my request to Sonia ji. It is her decision now,” he told The Indian Express.
Arvinder Singh Lovely, Ajay Maken, Naseeb Singh, Rajesh Lilothia and J P Agrawal were present in the meeting with Sonia where the strategy to contest the assembly polls was discussed. Senior leaders said Maken, who contested against Kejriwal in 2015, has expressed his apprehension in fighting polls again. According to sources, he left for the US on Tuesday night.
“He is not interested in fighting the elections this time. The party is about to announce the names by the end of this week. If he is not in the country, chances of him fighting the polls are low,” said a senior leader. Maken did not respond to the calls and messages by The Indian Express.
The screening committee was scheduled to meet on Wednesday evening to finalise the list of candidates.
Former MLAs Arvinder Singh Lovely, who contested from Gandhi Nagar, and Naseeb Singh, who contested from Vishwas Nagar, also said they they will abide by Sonia’s decision.