Extending an olive branch to the dissenting camp in the Congress, interimparty chief Sonia Gandhi on Monday appointed former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan as the chairman of the screening committee for Assam.

The work of the screening committee is to recommend candidates to the Central Election Committee of the party headed by Sonia Gandhi, which is the final authority to distribute tickets to the aspiring party candidates.

The 126-member Assam Assembly will go to the polls in three phases on March 27, April 1 and April 6. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.

Chavan was one of the signatories of a letter written to Sonia Gandhi last year, which demanded sweeping reforms within the party. Sources say the Congress doesn’t want any confrontation with the dissenting camp at this crucial juncture with five states/UT going to the polls in a month’s time.

Along with Chavan as the chairman, Kamleshwar Patel and Dipika Pandey Singh have been made members of the screening committee.

The members of the dissenting camp have been saying that they are kept out of the consultation process, but now the Congress seems to be trying to address their grievances, keeping them in the loop for the party’s election strategy .

In solidarity with former Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, the dissenters, including Kapil Sibal, Raj Babbar and Manish Tewari, were in Jammu on February 27 where they chose to attack the party, saying they were saddened by the weakening of the party.

The dissenters have been upset since their letter became public in August last year. The group is reportedly unhappy with the rise of people close to Rahul Gandhi, including K.C. Venugopal and Randeep Singh Surjewala.

The overlooking of Anand Sharma for the post of Leader of Opposition and denying another Rajya Sabha term to Azad have irked them, while leaders like Manish Tewari and Sandeep Dikshit are also feeling sidelined in the party set-up.

Sources say the internal war is far from over as Rahul Gandhi is placing people close to him in key posts, often overlooking the seniors.

–IANS

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