‘We are taking decisions about giving tickets under a new process’

The Congress’s candidates for the coming Lok Sabha elections will be finalised at the national level “very soon for the first time” under a “new process” reflecting the “voice of people” in the organisation, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi told journalists here on Friday ahead of a meeting of the newly constituted screening committees for the elections. Party sources said a list of close to 200 nominees could be ready as soon as the end of this month.

“We are taking decisions about giving tickets in a new way, under a new process,” he said, adding, “Discussions have been taking place within our party for a long time. The thinking is that we bring a process and system in the party and bring in the voice of people in the political party systematically.”

At the meeting, however, it was party general secretaries Madhusudan Mistry and CP Joshi who held the floor during the one and a half hour long meeting. Mr. Mistry, who had been given the task almost a year and half ago to identify panels of LS candidates explained at great length, party sources said, the process that had been adopted. Mr Joshiexplained the statistical exercise that had accompanied the elaborate selection process.

Mr. Gandhi, these sources added, only intervened occasionally, saying, “We were given guidelines for the final selection of candidates.” These include no criminal record, winnability and the right political profile.

The meeting came a day after the Congress constituted the screening committees for the various states and Union Territories. While the various general secretaries, PCC chiefs, Chief Ministers/CLP leaders are members of the screening committees of the States they are in charge of, the party announced 10 chairpersons and 10 members. The 10 chairpersons include Central Ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mallikarjun Kharge, Vyalar Ravi, Oscar Fernandes, V. Narayansamy and Jitendra Singh —the other three are senior leaders Pawan Bansal, Bhubaneshwar Kalita and P.C. Chacko. Meetings of the screening committees to select candidates will begin soon after the AICC meeting in Delhion January 17, it is learnt.

The selection exercise being conducted is also in line with the recommendation that the A.K. Antony panel, entrusted with the task of drawing up an action plan for the party for the assembly and the Lok Sabha polls, had made.It had recommended that the candidates should be declared at least a few months ahead of the elections

The exercise that Mr. Mistry described on Friday began in 2012 at the initiative of Mr. Gandhi when lists were made with a panel of names for every Lok Sabha constituency. This bank of names has been created after an elaborate exercise by 54-odd specially selected observers.

The observers, who fanned out across the country to choose potential Lok Sabha candidates, were selected through an elaborate process, Congress sources told The Hindu: those on a long list, drawn up on the basis of recommendations made by State chiefs, senior leaders and Mr. Gandhi himself, were invited to Delhi. Questions relating to political experience and how they would approach the task of selecting potential candidates were posed in writing.

The observers had to tour 10 constituencies each to study the situation, detect any anti-incumbency against sitting MPs — if they belonged to the party — list caste equations and look for potential candidates on the basis of one-on-one conversations with a diverse group of local party activists.

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