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Congress releases first list of 39 candidates for Lok Sabha polls; faces internal crisis and defections

The party has announced its candidates for eight states and one UT, with Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad. However, it is also facing dissent and desertion from some of its senior leaders, including Manish Khanduri and former IPCC chief R.K. Pachauri.

Piyush Gautam, New Delhi 

The Congress party on Friday announced its first list of 39 candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, a day after a meeting of its Central Election Committee (CEC), chaired by party president Mallikarjun Kharge, cleared names for several constituencies.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi will contest from Kerala’s Wayanad seat, which he currently represents. Congress general secretary K C Venugopal will contest from Alappuzha, while sitting Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor will fight to retain the constituency. The party has also decided to field former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel from Rajnandgaon seat and former minister Tamardwaj Sahu from Mahasamund, while Jyotsna Mahant will contest from Korba in the state.

The list also includes candidates from Karnataka, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. The party is yet to announce its candidates for the northern states, where it once had a strong presence. The party is expected to release more lists in the coming days, as it finalizes its seat-sharing arrangements with its allies in various states.

However, the party is also facing a crisis of confidence and cohesion, as some of its senior leaders have expressed their dissatisfaction with the party leadership and have quit the party or joined the rival BJP. The most prominent among them is former IPCC chief and TERI director R.K. Pachauri, who resigned from the party on Thursday night, citing personal reasons. Pachauri, who was a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, had faced allegations of sexual harassment in 2015, which he was later exonerated of by a court in 2022.

Pachauri’s resignation came as a shock to the party, which had given him a ticket to contest from the New Delhi constituency. The party has not yet named a replacement for him. Sources said that Pachauri was unhappy with the party’s handling of the climate change issue and its alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi.

Another senior leader who quit the party recently is former Union minister Jitin Prasada, who joined the BJP on Wednesday. Prasada, who was considered close to Rahul Gandhi, said that he was feeling suffocated in the Congress and that he wanted to work for the development of Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Prasada’s exit has been seen as a blow to the party’s prospects in the state, where it is struggling to revive its fortunes.

The party has also witnessed defections from some of its MLAs and MPs in various states, such as Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, who have either joined the BJP or expressed their support for it. The party has accused the BJP of using money and muscle power to lure its leaders and weaken the opposition.

The Congress, which is the main challenger to the BJP at the national level, is hoping to improve its performance in the Lok Sabha polls, after it suffered a humiliating defeat in 2019, when it won only 52 seats out of 543. The party has been trying to project itself as a champion of secularism, democracy, social justice and federalism, and has been critical of the BJP’s policies and actions on various issues, such as the economy, the pandemic, the farmers’ protest, the CAA, the Kashmir issue and the Rafale deal.

The party has also been forging alliances with regional parties in different states, such as the DMK in Tamil Nadu, the NCP and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, the JMM in Jharkhand, the RJD in Bihar and the AAP in Delhi, to take on the BJP and its allies. The party has also been reaching out to the youth, the women, the minorities and the marginalized sections of the society, and has promised to provide employment, education, health care and social security to them.

The party has also been highlighting the achievements and contributions of its past leaders, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, and has been invoking their legacy and vision for the country. The party has also been projecting Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate, and has been showcasing his leadership skills and charisma.

The party is confident that it will be able to put up a strong fight against the BJP and its allies, and will be able to form the next government at the centre, with the support of its allies and the people of the country. The party has also appealed to the voters to exercise their franchise wisely and to reject the divisive and authoritarian agenda of the BJP and its allies.

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