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In Congress, no austerity for ticket-seekers

September 15, 2009 00:47 IST

With political activity hotting up for the assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra, where the Congress is currently in power, ticket aspirants are making a beeline for all the important addresses in the capital to plead their case.
 
All India Congress Committee general secretary Mohsina Kidwai is suddenly very much in demand in Haryana as she has been made the chairperson of the screening committee for Haryana, a powerful post since the committee finalizes the candidates before they go for final approval to the Chief Eelection Commissioner.
 
Kidwai hosted an Iftar at her 80 Lodhi Road house on Saturday where apart from the Congress president and the prime minister, the bulk of the invitees consisted of the top rung of Congress' Haryana leadership, all of whom made it a point to be present at the Iftar and pay court to the general secretary. Union minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is also the general secretary incharge of Haryana and MoS Anand Sharma who is on the screening committee for Haryana, were also at the party.
 
In these days of austerity drives and costcutting, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has decided to give a go-by to her Iftar party which is normally held on the lawns of the party headquarters at 24 Akbar Road.  It is normally not the practice for general secretary to host an Iftar party. These are normally hosted by the President, the prime minister, the vice-president, maybe even the speaker or ministers, whose bill is picked up either by their respective ministries or a concerned public sector underatking. The Congress party only pays for the iftar hosted by the Congress president, and in this context there was intense speculation at the AICC headquarters on who was the actual host and what was the exact reason for having the Iftar.
 
Sunday witnessed a virtual traffic jam outside a Congress leader's house with over 200 cars jostling for parking space. The  Iftar had obviously done its job and the message had gone to the Haryana ticket seekers on which the correct address to approach.  

The Congress leadership in a bid to give a balanced representation to all sections and factions of the state unit has included 4 more senior leaders from the state in the screening committee. These include Birender Singh, Kumari Selja, Kiran Chaudhary and Rao Inderjeet. All four are known to be anti-Hooda and pitched fights are on within the state unit with Hooda having worked to have a number of his opponents within the Congress defeated in the last election and now they are all collectively gunning for the Haryana chief minister.
 
It is clear that unlike in the past, one section is not being given a free hand. In Maharashtra too, the two senior leaders Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde have been included in the screening committee. Both are former and potential CM candidates. 
 
In Haryana, the Congress leadership has taken a dim view of the manner in which posters and cut outs of the Chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hoodaand his son Deepender being put all over the state. Sources said that  the chief minister has been told to stop the "Hooda-centric" campaign. Rahul Gandhi and Deepender Hooda have been portrayed as the two rising   stars of the country in these posters.
 
The chief minister has been asked to discontinue the ad campaign which said Hooda ki sarkar (Hooda's government). Selja wanted to know whether there were no other ministers, leaders, workers or even Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi except for the contribution of the chief minister.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi