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Opening the party

No free Congress tickets in 16 Lok Sabha seats heading for Rahul’s US-style primaries.

Rahul Gandhi’s close aide Meenakshi Natarajan and two of Delhi’s seven MPs will have to win internal elections if they hope to recontest as Congress candidates from their seats. These three seats, the two in Delhi yet to be finalised, are among 16 that will go for Rahul’s ambitious US-style primaries experiment under which candidates would be selected through elections.

Natarajan is the MP from Mandsour in Madhya Pradesh. Other than these three seats, only one of those heading for primaries was won by a Congress candidate last time — Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan, whose MP, Sis Ram Ola, died last month.

The inclusion of two seats in Delhi is being seen as an afterthought that followed the success of an experiment by the Aam Aadmi Party. The AAP had selected its Delhi assembly candidates through a process that involved public participation.

The names of Chandni Chowk and Delhi Northwest, represented by union ministers Kapil Sibal and Krishna Tirath, appeared on the party website as Delhi’s two constituencies for the primaries, but sources said the high command has since conveyed to them that their seats are not part of the exercise.

The other five Delhi MPs are Ajay Maken, Sandeep Dikshit, Jaiprakash Aggarwal, Ramesh Kumar and Mahabal Mishra.

Rahul was keen to conduct the experiment in 25 seats, but settled for 16 for want of time and manpower. The objective is to ensure grassroots workers and leaders get a say in the selection, and prevent nepotism and ticket distribution on factional, caste and community lines.

The 12 seats not held by the Congress are Aurangabad and Yavatmal in Maharashtra, Indore in MP, Bangalore North and Dakshina Kannada in Karanataka, Bhavnagar and Vadodara in Gujarat, Sant Kabir Nagar and Varanasi in UP, Bikaner in Rajasthan, Guwahati in Assam, and Kolkata Uttar in West Bengal (see box).

How it’s done

The Congress has set up a two-member authority to hold the primaries. Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is in charge and the other member is AICC secretary Prakash Joshi, who was one of the election commissioners when Rahul introduced internal elections in the Youth Congress.

The party will send returning officers to all 16 seats to form an electoral college, which will consist primarily of block presidents, office-bearers of district and state units, those of the AICC who belong to the constituency, elected representatives of local self-governments, and office-bearers of the Youth Congress, the NSUI, the Mahila Congress, the Seva Dal and party cells and departments.

The voters can also include the presidents of cooperative banks and societies and presidents of organisations such as bar associations, trade bodies, and chartered accountants and medical practitioners’ associations, provided they are either Congressmen or are neutral and wish to participate in the process. Sources said the electoral college could have a minimum 700 to 800 members.

Once the voters’ list has been finalised, applications for the ticket will be sought from party members. Here the Congress has decided to involve the Foundation for Advanced Management of Elections, an NGO, to decide on complaints about any of candidates facing criminal cases against them. FAME, which oversaw the Youth Congress and NSUI elections, is run by former election commissioners including J M Lyngdoh, T S Krishnamurthy, N Gopalsamy and K J Rao.

Once the nominations have been accepted, they will be made public so that complaints can be filed. This will be followed by a convention where all the candidates will get an opportunity to speak, after which the election will be held through a secret ballot to decide the candidate.

The american way

In the US, parties use primaries to pick their candidate for presidential, gubernatorial and local elections.

Presidential primary: It takes place statewise and is organised by state governments according to their respective procedures. Closed primary: Only registered members of a party can vote in that party’s primary. 13 states follow this.

Semi-closed primary: People not affiliated to any party can vote in the primary of a party of their choosing. This is followed by 15 US states.

Open primary: People vote in any party’s primary regardless of affiliation.
Qualifying primary: Used in some local elections, both party-based and not. The primary selects twice the number of candidates (regardless of party affiliation) as there are seats.

THE 16 SEATS

Held by Congress

2 in Delhi: All 7 seats held by Congress, 2 seats for primaries to be finalised

Mandsaur (MP): Meenakshi Natarajan beat BJP’s Laxminarayan Pandey in 2009

Also won by Congress/allies
Jhunjhunu (Rajasthan): Sis Ram Ola (since deceased) beat BJP’s D D Shekhawat last time
Kolkata Uttar: Congress in 2009 was in alliance with Trinamool, whose Sudip Bandopadhyay beat Md Selim (CPM)

Lost by Congress
Guwahati (Assam): Capt Robin Bordoloi was the last Congress candidate; Bijoya Chakravarty (BJP) is MP
Bhavnagar (Gujarat): Gohilmahavirsinhbhagirathsinh lost to Rajubhai Rana of BJP
Vadodara (Gujarat): Gaekwad S Dulipsinh lost to Balu Shukla (BJP)
Dakshin Kannada (Karnataka): Janardhana Poojary lost to Nalin Kateel of BJP
Bangalore North: C K Jaffer Sharief lost to D B Chandre Gowda (BJP)
Indore (MP): Satynarayan Patel lost to Sumitra Mahajan (BJP)
Yavatmal (Maharashtra): Harising Rathod lost to Bhavana Gawali ( S Sena)
Aurangabad (Maharashtra): Uttamsingh Rajdharsingh Pawar lost to Chandrakant Khaire (S Sena)
Bikaner (Rajasthan): Rewat Ram Panwar lost to Arjun Ram Meghwal (BJP)
Sant Kabir Nagar (UP): Congress fielded Fazley Mahamood, who finished fifth in election won by BSP’s Bhisma Shankar aka Kusha Tiwari
Varanasi: Rajesh Kumar Mishra finished fourth in election won by Murli Manohar Joshi (BJP)

Held by Congress 2 in Delhi: All 7 seats held by Congress, 2 seats for primaries to be finalisedMandsaur (MP): Meenakshi Natarajan beat BJP’s Laxminarayan Pandey in 2009
Also won by Congress/alliesJhunjhunu (Rajasthan): Sis Ram Ola (since deceased) beat BJP’s D D Shekhawat last timeKolkata Uttar: Congress in 2009 was in alliance with Trinamool, whose Sudip Bandopadhyay beat Md Selim (CPM)
Lost by CongressGuwahati (Assam): Capt Robin Bordoloi was the last Congress candidate; Bijoya Chakravarty (BJP) is MP Bhavnagar (Gujarat):Gohilmahavirsinhbhagirathsinh lost toRajubhai Rana of BJPVadodara (Gujarat): Gaekwad S Dulipsinh  lost to Balu Shukla (BJP)Dakshin Kannada (Karnataka): Janardhana Poojary lost to Nalin Kateel of BJPBangalore North: C K Jaffer Sharief lost to D B Chandre Gowda (BJP)Indore (MP): Satynarayan Patel lost to Sumitra Mahajan (BJP)Yavatmal (Maharashtra): Harising Rathod lost to Bhavana Gawali ( S Sena)Aurangabad (Maharashtra): Uttamsingh Rajdharsingh Pawar lost to Chandrakant Khaire (S Sena)Bikaner (Rajasthan): Rewat Ram Panwar lost to Arjun Ram Meghwal (BJP)Sant Kabir Nagar (UP): Congress fielded Fazley Mahamood, who finished fifth in election won by BSP’s Bhisma Shankar aka Kusha TiwariVaranasi: Rajesh Kumar Mishra finished fourth in election won by Murli Manohar Joshi (BJP)

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