Faced with a tough Lok Sabha election, Congress will begin the exercise of finalisation of its candidates tomorrow with the first meeting of the Central Election Committee. The panel, chaired by President Sonia Gandhi as well as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi as its members, will decide candidates for a number of seats where the processes have been completed.
Early finalisation of candidates for elections was a key recommendation of the A K Antony Committee, which Rahul Gandhi is keen to implement in the upcoming general elections in April-May. The party plans to finalise most of the candidates by this month-end. Party sources said, meetings of central screening committees for several states have already been held to shortlist the candidates, setting the stage for taking the selection exercise into a higher gear.
A meeting of the screening committee of Maharashtra was held on Wednesday after Congress and NCP finalised seat-sharing for the state. Meetings of the election committees in the states have concluded last month and several Pradesh election committees passed one-line resolution authorising Sonia Gandhi Rahul to finalise the nominees. Candidate selection process has been fast-tracked this time unlike in recent decades when the nominees were finalised at the last minute.
Since Lok Sabha elections are to be held in April-May, the decision will give at least two months time to the candidates to prepare for the elections. The candidate selection exercise was made pro-active by the party after the AICC meeting on January 17. Sources said Rahul is keen that candidates are given sufficient time to prepare for the elections. The Antony panel, entrusted with the task of drawing up an action plan for the party for assembly and Lok Sabha polls a few years ago, had recommended that the candidates should be declared at least a few months ahead of the elections.
Efforts to implement the recommendation were made many times, including in recent Madhya Pradesh assembly polls. However, it could not be done owing to an intense rivalry over ticket distribution in the party as well as some apprehension that this could lead to rebel candidates putting up their candidature and getting time to prepare for elections.
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One of the reasons for the defeat of the party in Madhya Pradesh assembly elections this time has also been attributed to quite late declaration of candidates. Some 50-odd observers, mainly MPs or former MPs, selected by AICC after intense scrutiny, have already prepared a separate list of candidates after visiting all 543 Lok Sabha constituencies. Criteria like denial of tickets to those who have successively tasted two electoral defeats or lost their deposits in the last poll have also been put in place.