Merit out of the window with heavy lobbying by top leaders

The Congress in Karnataka, in the run-up to the Assembly elections, is again being driven by factionalism, with a section of the party leaders demanding ticket for their respective followers and relegating the interest of the party to the background.

Sources in the Congress told The Hindu here on Tuesday that although the candidates for nearly 200 of the 224 constituencies have been finalised (though not officially announced) there is still a considerable amount of lobbying by senior leaders resulting in changes with every passing hour. So much so, the finalisation of candidates based on merit and their winnability is taking a beating.

It is now quite apparent that the Congress will be in the lead and is most likely to form the next government in the State, and consequently there is a huge demand for ticket. The top leaders involved in the exercise of finalising the list of candidates are believed to be having a hard time striking a balance between merit and the demands of its leaders, apart from other pressing factors.

There are the parameters for ticket distribution set by the newly appointed national vice-president, Rahul Gandhi. He is said to have categorically conveyed that merit should be the yardstick for candidature although senior leaders from the State have been lobbying hard for seats to be given to their kin. Added to this is the demand of women, who have demanded a certain percentage of seats. They have even staged a demonstration in New Delhi to draw attention to their demand.

The Congress sources said: “We had hoped to release the list on Saturday after the meeting of the Central Election Committee. But, there are still some seats where the candidates are being changed at the last minute.” While the party has settled the issue on whether to accept turncoats or give ticket to Congressmen who had rebelled and fought as Independents in the 2008 election, the holdup has largely come about thanks to the demands based on caste and community considerations.

Juggling reports

The confusion largely centres on what has been described as too exhaustive an exercise undertaken by the party over the past one year to finalise list of candidates. The party High Command has five reports, with each containing around 500 names, and some of the names being repetitive. They are the block presidents’ report, which was vetted by the district presidents and forwarded to the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee; the report of the AICC observers who took a detailed tour of all Assembly constituencies in the State; the report of the AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka (Madhusudan Mistry); the Karnataka Pradesh Election Committee which has submitted a report; and finally the report prepared by Central Police Intelligence.

It is said that at the meeting held a few days ago in New Delhi, candidates were finalised based on the clout they enjoyed. Indications are that the top leadership may have to sit again before announcing another list of candidates in an effort to ensure the rebellion is squelched in time.

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