Battle-ready Bharatiya Janata Party is carrying on with the strategy that gave it victory in the assembly elections. Its “democratised” candidate selection process involves in-house voting by district-level office bearers and senior party workers to choose the top three contenders for every parliamentary constituency.
At a time when the Congress has initiated primaries as an experiment in 16 parliamentary constituencies across the country, state BJP leaders claim the party has already been following a similar process. “The Congress has now come up with the primaries, that too in a handful of constituencies, while we had got the assembly polls right by following a similar democratic process. The same procedure is being followed for the Lok Sabha elections,” Sheo legislator Manvendra Singh told The Indian Express.
Over the past few days, CM Vasundhara Raje, BJP state president Ashok Parnami and party state in-charge Kaptan Singh Solanki have been in extensive feedback meetings across the state. In these meetings, behind closed doors, the party invites district-level office bearers, heads of various cells, existing and former legislators and parliamentarians and senior party members to vote for their top three choices.
Voters from a list of 175-200 cast a secret ballot. The candidate given first preference gets 10 points, the one in second spot gets 7, the third 5. The names of the candidates with the highest number of points in each constituency are then forwarded for a public survey. Intelligence reports are also sought to know the pulse of the electorate.
“Our system has been completely democratic and there is no room for baseless recommendations. A bottom-up approach helped us get the assembly polls correct in Rajasthan,” said Kaptan Singh Solanki. “The central election committee decides on this feedback. Of course, some leaders from the Centre have to be accommodated in a few seats, but for the majority of them we will go by the feedback of the party workers.”
The Jaipur parliamentary seat had the maximum number of claimants and the verdict has been unclear with several top leaders lobbying for it. In Jhalawar constituency, which is held by Raje’s son MP Dushyant Singh, no other name has come up except requests to repeat him. During her meeting there, Raje insisted that at least two other alternative options be cited but party workers praised the sitting MP for his work and reportedly would not name anyone else.
For the Barmer seat, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh and his daughter-in-law Chitra Singh, who has been campaigning for him and also husband Manvendra Singh, have been named. The party is contemplating a Jat candidate for the seat while Singh, who wants this to be his last election, is insistent on contesting from his home constituency.
Meanwhile, the Congress, which is likely to field new candidates in Bikaner and Jhunjhunu seats following the primaries election, it is set to repeat most of its sitting MPs. It has 20 sitting MPs, many of whom are prominent ministers at the Centre. Though the party is not hopeful of retaining many of its seats, sources said the high command is not keen of letting them change their constituencies. It is expected that top leaders such as Sachin Pilot, C P Joshi, Lalchand Kataria, Jitendra Singh, Chandresh Kumari, Girja Vyas and Harish Choudhary will contest from the same constituencies.