“Prefer Congressmen for party tickets over the turncoats, especially the tainted ones,” is AICC president Sonia Gandhi’s directive to Punjab Congress, which is in the process of choosing candidates for the 2017 Assembly election. She is learnt to have told this to the screening committee headed by former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh during the party’s central election committee meeting in Delhi on Thursday.
A source revealed that she has advised the leaders against ruthlessly axing its own workers to accommodate Akalis, who joined the party recently. Sonia categorically asked the state Congress not to make any commitments to the turncoats and they should be asked to join unconditionally.
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The source said Sonia asked campaign committee chief Ambika Soni, Congress Legislature Party leader Charanjit Singh Channi and Amarinder to get together and sound out unsuccessful contenders in advance and start placating them.
The party wants to curb a rebellion that could mar the Congress’s prospects in the elections. Sonia, it is learnt, held a meeting with certain leaders at her Delhi residence on Friday to set the ball rolling in that direction.
Folllowing Sonia’s directions, ticket to former Akali MLA Sarwan Singh Phillaur is uncertain. Former Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa has been spearheading a campaign against tickets to turncoats. It is learnt that Amarinder has been pushing for Phillaur and another Akali MLA Inderbir Singh Bolaria. Their names are yet to be cleared.
The CEC has asked the screening committee to meet again and arrive at a consensus on seats that have not yet been cleared. The committee would meet on Monday and Tuesday.