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Congress to fast track selection of candidates


New Delhi (Sept 19, 2014): With Shiv Sena and BJP still at loggerheads over seat sharing, Congress is expected to fast track selection of candidates for Maharashtra on saturday where it is fighting the Assembly election in alliance with NCP.

With Sonia Gandhi back from her US visit, a meeting of the Central Election Committee (CEC) has been scheduled for Saturday to decide candidates in the state, where the Congress-NCP alliance is staring its toughest election, battling 15 years of anti-incumbency.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan would be arriving here tonight and attend the CEC meeting along with PCC chief Manikrao Thakre and AICC general secretary in-charge for the state Mohan Prakash.

Congress leadership wants to field several fresh faces in the upcoming Assembly elections in the state although there is a view among some of its leaders, mainly from the state, that the move of denying tickets to sitting MLAs and known faces may backfire.

Leaders from Maharashtra, including ministers, have contended that too many fresh faces in the polls could prove counter-productive for the party.

A senior Congress leader said the issue of new faces vis-a-vis experienced persons had seen the earlier meeting of CEC in the first week of this month taking no decision on the seats held by the party.

Congress appeared ready to give around 130 seats to the junior partner, NCP.

Maharashtra has a total of 288 Assembly seats and, for the last state elections, Congress had allotted 114 seats to NCP.

Congress and NCP are sharing power in the state for the past 15 years, soon after Pawar parted ways with the former on the issue of Sonia's foreign origin.

In the recently held general elections, Congress won only two seats while NCP bagged four of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Pawar's party had been pressing for a 50:50 seat- sharing arrangement following the Lok Sabha elections result.

The talk in Congress circles is that several senior leaders were keen to give tickets to their kith and kin, including former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who is said to be looking to field his wife Amita while senior Maharashtra minister Narayan Rane is lobbying for a ticket for his son.

Assembly elections in Haryana are also due along with Maharashtra on October 15. A number of meetings of the Screening and Campaigning Committees of the state have already taken place, where discussions over the candidates and poll themes have taken place.

Sources in the party, however, said that Saturday's CEC meeting is Maharashtra centric.