Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: Ahead of the general elections, the All India Congress Committee has approached the selection of candidates in Odisha with a different strategy. Camping in the State for the first time, the AICC Screening Committee has turned its focus on 11 different Lok Sabha constituencies. Going by the party chief Rahul Gandhi's formula to select candidates from grassroots level, the screening committee is leaving no stone unturned to meet the criteria set by the top brass.

On the second day of the shortlisting of candidates, chairman of the screening committee, VD Satheesan held discussons with various stakeholders for selection of candidates for Puri and Jagatsinghpur Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies, while member of the AICC screening committee, Naushad Solanki carried out process for Kalahandi and Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seats.

"Our party's poll prospects are better than earlier. Now we expect good results in 11 Lok Sabha constituencies, so we will concentrate more on them, but it does not mean that we will not focus on other seats," said Satheesan.

"We have suffered defeats on several occassions, so the screening committee is consulting with all stakeholders on an individual level to ascertain the political scenario of their areas," said party leader and former Nabarangpur MP, Pradip Majhi.

According to sources, screening committee chairman has been urged not to consider the candidates who have a poor winning record. However, PCC Chief Niranjan Patnaik said “Winability will be prioritised and preference will be given to youth and women.”

As per the earlier practice, the AICC screening committee used to select candidates as per the recommendations of the Pradesh Congress Committee. But this time round, the selectors are looking for suggestions from the grassroots workers and leaders.

"We are optimitistic that the selection process will be very beneficial since the party has decided to select candidates by looking into the grassroots reality," said Congress leader from Jagatsinghpur Lalatendu Mohapatra.

Party spokesperson Nishikanta Mishra said all the leaders and workers of the party will support the AICC's selection.

Amid exits of leaders and infighting, party's attmept to make the selection process free of any controversy is a welcoming step. But it remains to be seen whether it will have any impact on the party's poll prospects.