NEW DELHI, March 7 - The Congress party has shortlisted its candidates for the Lok Sabha elections and the final list of candidates is scheduled to be announced on March 12.
A meeting of the first screening committee of the Assam Congress held at the AICC �War Room� on Thursday decided to renominate sitting MPs Sushmita Dev and Gaurav Gogoi, while a final decision on renominating Biren Singh Engti has been left to the Congress Election Committee (CEC) to take a call. The CEC, which is headed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, is now likely to meet on March 11, said party sources.
The party is, however, in a dilemma over its alliance with the AGP, though the possibility of the two joining hands appears slim now. Party sources revealed that it had opened negotiations with a section of AGP leaders and a senior CPI(M) national leader was mediating, but as a powerful group led by AGP president Atul Bora and senior leader Keshab Mahanta has opposed it, the Congress has given up hope.
The party has also opposed any poll alliance with Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF despite pressure from central leadership, sources said.
The Congress leadership is also finding it tough to get winnable candidates against the BJP. For instance, for the prestigious Guwahati seat, it is yet to find a powerful candidate, as a result of which it has now been decided to fall back on Rajya Sabha MP Bhubaneswar Kalita, who has been given an option of contesting either from Guwahati or Mangaldai Lok Sabha seats.
Today�s meeting chaired by AICC general secretary, administration KC Venugopal was attended by general secretary Harish Rawat, PCC president Ripun Bora, State opposition leader Debabrata Saikia, among others. The Congress leaders were also in close touch with former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi who is likely to play a critical role in finalising the list.
The meeting on Thursday decided to prune the list of candidates to two-three candidates per seat. A section of the Congress leaders was upset because the panel of names forwarded comprised political lightweights, sources admitted.
Meanwhile, talking to newsmen after a three-hour-long meeting, Harish Rawat said that they have shortlisted the candidates. �We examined the prospects of the candidates and we will be ready by the time the second meeting of the screening committee is held,� he said.
�The final list will be declared by March 12 and in two seats we have forwarded one name each. The candidate for Diphu seat has been left to the party high command to decide,� he added.
Later, Ripun Bora told newsmen that they have forwarded the names of the shortlisted candidates to the Congress Election Committee but �we will meet again and finalise rest of the candidates.�
Debabrata Saikia said they may have to meet twice or thrice more to finalise the list of candidates. �Today we got some directions and we will have to sit again to further examine the list,� he said.
Sources said some shortlisted candidates will have to be dropped because one of the guidelines suggested by the AICC states that a candidate, who has lost election twice would not be considered.