Flooded with “phoney testimonials” from poll ticket aspirants asserting their popularity, Congress has decided to scrap this criterion of endorsement for fighting the upcoming Assembly elections. The party also has announced to rope in “candidates from outside” and already invited the three rising “Young Turks” of Gujarat politics — Patidar leader Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, and Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani — to contest the Assembly polls on the Congress symbol to put up a “good fight” against the ruling BJP.
In August last year, the party had announced that aspiring candidates for the Assembly elections would have clear a test of “popularity”, making it mandatory to furnish testimonies of 15 voters from each booth in their respective Assembly constituencies.
In their report submitted to the party high command, AICC observers have pointed out flaws in mandatory submission of popularity testimonials by aspiring candidates before September 30 last year — a condition laid down by the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC).
A senior AICC functionary, who oversaw the reports prepared by the party observers, said, “Out of the 1,475 plus applications received for 182 seats in Gujarat, almost 60 per cent turned out to be those with testimonials that could not be verified… It was a big jolt to the plans as it exposed the lack of connect that leaders had on the ground.”
With the Model Code of Conduct likely to be effected soon, sources said that the party has “almost finalised” its list of candidates.
AICC coordinator Mohan Sharma, who was given the responsibility of Sayajigunj Assembly constituency in Vadodara, said a thorough background check of aspiring candidates was conducted through external agencies. “We found that many aspirants were those who only wished to get a ticket to be able to boast that they contested an election. However, we gathered a lot of information about the candidates through our AICC volunteers who worked discreetly on the ground and went door-to-door to meet people and understand their aspirations. We also had external agencies conducting checks on popular candidates in terms of their nature, temperament, character, accessibility to people, financial background and dealings, and so on.”
Sources said that while many local elected representatives of Congress have staked claim, the party is in talks with stronger faces from outside the party fold.
GPCC president Bharatsinh Solanki said: “The testimonials are no longer part of the list of criteria needed for a candidate seeking ticket. Even if someone submits the testimonials but has no capacity to win, it will be of no use. We have also discarded the condition that the candidate should not have lost two elections.”
He further said: “If we get better candidates outside, we will bring them. We want to give Gujarat the best candidates.”