All those seeking a Congress ticket for the forthcoming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram later this year are now being urged to fill a five-page-long application form, answering questions not just on personal background, but also a statement of purpose, as well as details about the constituency from which the applicant hopes to contest.

A senior Congress functionary told The Hindu that the party first experimented with printed application forms during the Karnataka assembly earlier this year. But party sources said not enough forms were submitted ahead of the selection process. In many cases, they were filled in later just to complete the formalities.

This time, the Congress hopes that more people would fill the revamped application forms. However, a functionary said, “The party will not be rigid about it. Ultimately, winnability is the most important criteria.”

These application forms are just one more of party vice president Rahul Gandhi’s ideas to make the process of selection of candidates more transparent and cleaner in the hope that it will deter party seniors from “influencing” the choice of candidates, often to the detriment of the party.

However, party leaders are still doubtful whether this would actually prevent aspirants from lobbying with screening committee members, come elections.

But while questions on assets, caste, whether the aspiring candidate has a criminal record, business background, how long the person has been in the Congress, details of previous experience at contesting elections and by what margin he or she won or lost the seat would certainly be useful for the selectors, it’s a moot point whether anyone would wade through the statements of purpose, and the answers to questions on the applicant’s understanding of a particular constituency, including an assessment of the Congress’ past performance there.

But at a time when there is a national focus on the large number of legislators who boast of criminal records, if the Congress actually denies tickets to those with dubious backgrounds, it would be a healthy beginning. Especially, as a nationwide survey conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms shows that almost one-third of sitting Lok Sabha members and an equal number of MLAs in various States are facing criminal charges.

It also comes at a time when the Congress has submitted a report on electoral reforms to the Law Commission which, among other things, suggests that no one who has been charged with rape or demanding a dowry was given a ticket.

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