A 14-member Congress delegation Friday held its first meeting with the office bearers of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee to chalk out plans to hold the “primaries” on February 12 to elect the party candidate for Kolkata North Lok Sabha seat.
The “primary” system is a concept borrowed from the US political system by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who had announced that party workers will directly elect the party candidates for 15 Lok Sabha seats. Kolkata North is the only seat set for primaries in Bengal.
As per the party sources, the 14-member delegation that held the meeting today, comprise party men from across the country and all have been hand-picked by Rahul.
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According to Rajpal Bisht, Lok Sabha Returning Officer for Kolkata North, also a member of the delegation: “For three days —- From February 1 to 3 —- the team will be engaged in voter generation. The next three days —- February 4 to 6 —- the team will accept nominations, hold scrutiny and probe the objections to the nominations.
A convention will be held on February 12 where the polling, counting and declaration of results will be done,” Bisht, who is from Uttarakhand, told The Indian Express, at Bidhan Bhavan —- the state Congress headquarters.
As per Rahul Gandhi’s directive, all sitting and former MPs and MLAs, people who fought elections at through NSUI, Seva Dal and INTUC, former office-bearers of such organisations, office bearers of panchayats or other rural bodies, a person of standing in public service or social cause who is not a member of any other party, to name a few are eligible to become voters of such primaries.
No such person should have a criminal record, according to the directive given by Rahul.
Bisht said, the delegation will visit all the seven Assembly constituencies under Kolkata North LS seat to talk to party members. “Two each of us will visit all the seven constituencies and will talk to all the members. Everything will be transparent,” Rudra Raj from Andhra Pradesh, who is also a Lok Sabha Returning Officer, said.
Asked why the party chose Kolkata North, now represented by Trinamool Congress’s Sudip Bandopadhyay, for the primary, Bisht said it could have been because of logistical reasons. “We don’t know the exact reasons. Maybe it is because the constituency is in Kolkata itself,” Bisht added.
State Congress leaders have welcomed the concept. “It is a wonderful experiment, something never seen in politics in India,” Pradip Bhattacharya, WBPCC president, said.
There are, however, sceptics, who are questioning the efficacy of the system. “It is a concept that will lead to more democratisation of the party. But the question remains: Can there be a different opinion when a big shot files the nomination? For example, if Somen da (Mitra) files his nomination from Kolkata North, who else will come forward to become a candidate,” asked a senior leader.