Cong finalises 80 candidates for Guj polls

The Congress on Friday finalised about 80 candidates for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections, but an announcement will be made next week after getting more clarity on the pre-poll arrangement it can reach with the Patidar groups led by Hardik Patel.

The Central Election Committee, chaired by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, had a 45-minute meeting during which candidates for the two-phased elections were considered.

"The list of candidates finalised today (Friday) comprises nominees for both the phases," a senior leader said, adding that Sonia was keen on having a consensus on party nominees.

Three emerging leaders in Gujarat - Alpesh Thakor, Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani - were on the Congress radar for pre-poll tie-ups as it aims to dislodge the BJP from power after 22 years.

Thakor, a prominent OBC leader, has joined the Congress and plans to contest the elections; the grand old party was in talks with Patel and Mevani to win over support for the caste groupings spearheaded by them.

"We will announce candidates for 70 seats on November 16," Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki told reporters after the meeting.

The CEC is expected to meet again on Thursday to finalise more candidates. Gujarat goes to polls on December 9 and December 14.

"The proposals before the CEC today (Friday) included single names for Assembly seats as well as panels of three nominees. The CEC cleared almost all the seats where there was only one nominee," a source said.

The source said the screening committee was asked to go over the remaining proposals and send a single nominee for each of the remaining seats. Gujarat has an 186-member Assembly.

The party has reached a pre-poll arrangement with Chhotubhai Vasava, the JD(U) rebel who had cast the crucial winning vote in favour of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel in the fiercely fought Rajya Sabha election in August.

Rahul stamp

The list of candidates has a clear stamp of Rahul Gandhi, who is set to take over as Congress president later this year. Rahul is leading the Gujarat campaign from the front by touring it extensively.

On Saturday, he will hit the campaign trail by visiting the famous Ambaji Temple in Banaskantha. During the three-day leg of the Navsarjan Yatra, Rahul will tour North Gujarat.

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