National-level shooter, ex-BSP leader in UP Cong 2nd list of 16 women

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National-level shooter Poonam Pandit, who gained political prominence after her participation in the farmers’ protests on Delhi’s border, and the wife of a Congress leader who had died of a cardiac arrest during a TV debate are among 16 women in the Congress’s list of 41 candidates for Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, announced on Thursday.

The party has announced it will give 40 per cent party tickets to women in the state elections.

In the first list of 125 candidates, announced on january 13, Congress had named 50 women. The second list has also tried to balance caste equations, with the party naming 12 candidates each from General and OBC caterogies, nine from the Muslim community, and seven candisates from Scheduled Castes background.

The Congress named Poonam Pandit, 25, a national-level shooter, from Sayana seat in Bulandshahr district. Pandit, who comes from Bulandshahr, came to limelight with her aggressive speeches in the local dialect during the farmers’ movement, where she sat with the protesters. She had joined Congress about three months ago.

The Congress had won from Sayana in 2012, but lost it to BJP in 2017.

The party has named Sangeeta Tyagi, 43, from Sahibabad Assembly seat, an urban constituency next door to the national capital, in Ghaziabad. Sangeeta’s husband, late Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi, had died last year following a heart attack during a TV news debate. Sangeeta had subsequently filed a case in Supreme Court through an intervention application, seeking to assist the apex court on the issue of “hate speech”, allegedly run by TV news anchors.

In 2017, Congress had lost the Sahihabad seat to BJP’s Sunil Sharma, who will contest the same seat again, but had secured more than 1.12 lakh votes, with Congress’s Amarpal Sharma finishing second. The party hopes a woman candidate will give it the much-needed push this time.

From Nawabganj constituency in Bareilly, Congress has fielded Usha Gangwar, who had contested in 2012 on a BSP ticket and finished second, getting nearly 49,000 votes. The BSP did not repeat her candidature in 2017. Gangwar had recently joined Congress and has been chairman of Zila Panchayat in the past.

Other women in the Congress second list include Sukhwinder Kaur (from Saharanpur Nagar seat), Yasmeen Rana (Charthawal), Salma Agha Ansari (Thakurdwara), Kalpana Singh (Bilhari), Mithlesh (Chandausi; reserved), Neeraj Kumari Prajapati (Modi Nagar), Bhawana Valmiki (Hapur; reserved constituency), Sunita Sharma (Debai), Monika Suryavanshi (Khair; reserved), Preeti Dhangar (Iglas, reserved), Suman Chaudhary (Mant), and Priyanka Jaiswal (Akbarpur).

Besides women candidates, Congress has also tried to create a caste balance by nominating candidates from different communities and caste groups. Out of 12 candidates from the General category, nine are from the Brahmin community and three from Rajput; of 12 OBC candidates, the maximum five are from Jat background.

Among other prominent faces in the list released on Thursday is Sikandar Valmiki, who will contest from the reserved constituency of Agra Cantonment. The party claims his name was zeroed in on after consultation with the family and the community of Arun Valmiki, a sanitation worker who had died in police custody.

Congress leaders said party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had promised to field a candidate from the community when she met Arun Valmiki’s family — they claimed the family had recommended Sikandar Valmiki’s name. Valmiki, who has been active in the region, was earlier a UP Jal Nigam employee. He was reportedly suspended after he participated in a candlelight march demanding justice for the Hathras rape victim and had later resigned.

Besides meeting Arun Valmiki’s family in Agra, Priyanka had also visited a Valmiki-dominated colony in Lucknow. Valmikis are a prominent community among SCs, and the second Congress list has two candidates from the community, the second being Bhawana Valmiki from Hapur (reserved) constituency.

From Kairana seat, the Congress has named Haji Akhlaq, and Tukki Mal Khatik from Khurja, another reserved seat.





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