New Delhi: Under flak for it’s action in the Anna Hazare movement, the Congress has not shifted the party focus from the forthcoming UP assembly elections scheduled in 2012. In the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and other party stalwarts the names of half a dozen party candidates were finalized on Tuesday. 

The party top brass is busy finalising more party candidates. If party sources are to be believed the Congress may come up with a list of candidates for UP in the next few days. This is for the first time in the history of the Congress that the names of party candidates are being finalized with more than six months to go for the state polls.

The decision was taken in a meeting attending by Congress bigwigs at Prime Minister’s residence on Tuesday. In addition to the PM and Gandhi, the prominent Congress leaders to attend the meeting included Digvijay Singh, Janardhan Dwivedi, Mohsina Kidwai, Ambika Soni, Screening Committee Chairman Mohan Prakash, State President Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Leader of Congress in state assembly Pramod Tiwari.

After a three month wait, the Congress list will give preference to women, youth, Dalits, OBC and Muslim candidates.

In addition to the sitting legislators, the party has planned to give tickets to candidates who came second in the 2007 state polls. Congress candidates who managed to get more than 25,000 votes in the last assembly polls would also get the preference.

Congress members who contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and tasted defeat despite a good performance would also be considered from the assembly polls. Surendra Goel from Ghaziabad and Chaudhary Vijender Singh from Aligarh are two such candidates who lost the Lok Sabha election by a close margin.

According to sources, the first list of Congress for UP is likely to contain the names of party candidates from Muzzafarnagar, Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr, Moradabad, Bundelkhand region and Allahabad.