Rahul Gandhi’s experiment with primaries for selection of candidates, hailed as a move signalling an end to “the high command culture” in a party brought up on dynasty, has a parallel in an experiment tried out in near identical circumstances in Greece a decade ago, almost exactly to the date.
George Papandreou, a third-generation scion of Greece’s leading political family, got himself elected leader of the party his father had founded, Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), in the country’s first open primary, a move symbolic of Papandreou’s attempt to break clean of charges of “dynastic politics”. In the 2004 national elections, opinion polls pointed at PASOK being likely to lose to the New Democracy party. In January 2004, PM Costas Simitis resigned as leader of PASOK, and recomended Papandreou in his place. On February 8, PASOK held open primaries. Though Papandreou had no opponent, the move was seen as a major step in democratising the party amid the overhang of “dynastic politics”.
Rahul’s experiment 10 years on is limited to 16 constituencies and excludes the one he will contest from.
“The term dynasty generally has a negative connotation, especially in the context of a democracy… of course, the Gandhi family has gone through terrible experience of violence and fighting for the country… In many ways, I would say it’s a heavy responsibility when you are second or third or fourth generation… So, my concept of leadership is to work so that I’m redundant. Not to use the position to gain more and more power. That’s why I pushed the idea of primaries in Greece…,” Papandreou, who visited India last month, told The Indian Express.
As prime minister from October 2009 to November 2011, Papandreou was in the spotlight with his attempts to keep his country afloat during the Eurozone debt crisis. He resigned as PM in November 2011 as part of a deal to pave the way for a coalition government to restore stability, but remains a powerful figure as an MP and as president of Socialist International.
Meenakshi Natarajan, Mandsaur
The sitting MP won the primary amid a boycott and allegations by her rival that several voters were fake. The Rahul Gandhi aide got 706 votes while Surendra Sethi, a former district president who boycotted the primary, got only 50. “Rahulji’s dream of making the selection process transparent was defeated in Mandsaur,” he said. One of Natarajan’s poll opponents will be the AAP’s Paras Saklecha, a former MLA.
Rajbala Ola, Jhunjhunu
She is the daughter-in-law of the late Sis Ram Ola, who represented the seat. She polled 504 of 816 votes while her rival, Shravan Kumar, got 287.
Ashok Singh, Ambedkarnagar
In a contest marred by a self-immolation threat and allegations of unfairness, Singh, 60, polled 151 of 247 votes, against 89 for Krishna Kumar Yadav. Two office-bearers have been expelled for six years for opposing the process. Singh has worked his way up from the NSUI, which he joined in 1975. He will contest against sitting BSP MP Rakesh Pandey and the Samajwadi Party’s Ram Murti Verma. ens