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Shinde to head State Cong screening panel

By Spl Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Jan 10 � In a major rejig ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress party has appointed Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde as chairman of the screening committee for Assam, while APCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita has been given a similar charge for the States of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir.

The constitution of the screening committees, announced late on Thursday evening was no surprise for the partymen, as speculation was rife over party vice president Rahul Gandhi preparing a major rejig ahead of the polls. Another reshuffle of AICC is expected after the party session on January 17.

Shinde would be assisted by member Manish Tiwari and general secretary in-charge Dr CP Joshi, APCC chief Kalita and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

The selection of candidates for the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam is not expected to be a tough exercise as most of the sitting MPs are sure to be re-nominated. However, a last minute alliance with AIUDF though may change the equation.

The AICC has so far conducted three surveys and reports are not much encouraging, the sources said.

The party might change its Kaliabor MP Dip Gogoi to make way for Gaurav Gogoi, while the possibility of Jorhat MP Bijoy Krishna Handique being re-nominated is in doubt, too, sources said.

According to a senior AICC leader, the APCC chief and the Chief Minister have been asked to submit a panel of names. Kalita has reportedly already submitted a list of names, the sources added.

Suspense is, however, building over candidates for Guwahati, Mangaldai and Silchar seats. Capt Robin Bordoloi has expressed his interest for the Guwahati seat, while Sushmita Deb, daughter of Barak strongman Santosh Mohan Deb, is being considered for the Silchar seat.

Party sources said that the possibility of AIUDF dealing a blow to the party�s prospects in the minority dominated seats runs high, which is why an alliance with AIUDF cannot be ruled out despite Gogoi�s opposition.

Meanwhile, the reshuffle has come as a major boost for Kalita, as he has been given charge of three hill States. He was last given charge of Delhi election by the party.

Minister of State in PMO, V Narayan Swami has been made chairman of screening committees of the seven NE States and Sikkim. He would be assisted by G Chinna Reddy and general secretary in-charge Luizinho Faleiro, besides the PCC president and CLP leader.

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