The party hopes cash transfers will be a game-changer

The Congress has drawn up a list that contains three potential candidates for every Lok Sabha constituency. This bank of names has been created at the initiative of party general secretary Rahul Gandhi after an elaborate exercise by 54-odd specially selected observers. A majority of them submitted their reports on December 7 and the remaining should be in soon.

Even as the party’s parliamentary managers are engaged in ensuring the UPA government’s stability as well as pushing through key laws, the party has gone into election mode. Indeed, Congress chiefs of the 51 districts selected for the first phase of the cash transfer programme, commencing on January 1 next have been summoned here on Friday to be briefed on its significance by Mr Gandhi, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh at the party’s “War Room” on Gurdwara Rakabganj Road.

The party hopes cash transfers will be a “game-changer” in the way the MGNREGA was in 2009: if Mr. Chidambaram has described it as a “pioneering and pathbreaking reform" aimed at efficient delivery of benefits to the poor, Mr. Ramesh’s pithy spin is: Aapka paisa, aapke haath, (your money in your hands).

Meanwhile, 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 on October 20. Questions relating to political experience and how they would approach the task of selecting potential candidates were posed in writing.

At the meeting, party general secretary Madhusudan Mistry, who is overseeing the exercise, said the selected observers would have 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.

Mr. Gandhi underscored, an observer said, the seriousness of the exercise which, he said, needed to be completed expeditiously. Shortly after, observers from the north were called to Delhi on October 27 and those from the south to Bangalore on October 28 to be assigned constituencies, and given how-to handbooks.

  • An elaborate exercise by 54-odd specially selected observers

  • The observers would have to tour 10 constituencies each