Opening the party

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

New Delhi | Published on:January 31, 2014 3:02 am

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 …continued »

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