‘Rahul experiment a step towards strengthening intra-party democracy’

The Congress will soon start preparations for the primaries planned for early March in the Aurangabad and Washim-Yavatmal constituencies in Maharashtra, among the 15 nationwide where the party is taking up the U.S.-model popular selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, on an initiative of its vice-president, Rahul Gandhi.

Soon after representatives of the All-India Congress Committee and the State committee meet next week, the preparations will get under way.

“The primaries are likely to be held once the voter list and applications from candidates are finalised,” said Sanjay Nirupam, MP and party spokesperson.

Party sources said discussions on how to prepare the voter list were going on. Currently, the list had serving and former office-bearers and elected representatives from each constituency. “We are also thinking of including Congress-inclined activists from industry and non-governmental organisations,” a senior office-bearer said.

But the Opposition is unimpressed. “He [Rahul Gandhi] should have tried his experiment in [his constituency] Amethi,” said Rahul Narvekar, spokesperson of the Shiv Sena, which now holds both seats for which the Congress primaries are being held.

Mr. Narvekar said the Congress was “staging a drama” and the primaries would have no effect on the outcome of the general election.

Political observers, however, say Mr. Gandhi’s experiment is a positive step towards strengthening intra-party democracy. “Rahul wants to bring about certain changes which have never happened before,” said Suhas Palshikar, a Pune University professor and analyst.

However, such initiatives were likely to be opposed by the established State leadership of the party as the primaries might well end up undermining its clout, he said.

“No party in the country has organisational democracy in its true form. It is very likely that the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party has forced many to rethink and change their strategies,” he said.