Congress back to old formula for candidate selection

  • Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar
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No consensus reached on plan mooted by Rahul Gandhi to have internal panel recommend names; finally Sheila, J. P. Agarwal to take the call

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit, J.P. Agarwal.
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit, J.P. Agarwal.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s plan to have a higher level of internal democracy in the party by allowing a 27-member Election Committee to recommend three names for each of the 70 segments for the Delhi Assembly elections has not materialised. Following differences of opinion on the criteria to be adopted for selection, the panel returned to its time-tested formula and decided to empower Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee J. P. Agarwal to decide on what names would be sent to the Screening Committee.

Sources in the party said the Election Committee meeting on Monday was to take a final call on the names. “But there were clear differences of opinion among the members. While it was clear that the names of the 42 winning candidates of the party would be forwarded to the Screening Committee, there was no unanimity on the criteria to be adopted for shortlisting the three names from each of the remaining Assembly segments,” said a party leader, who was present at the meeting.

He said while some members insisted that those who have lost the Assembly or municipal elections twice should not be considered, others said those whose names have been forwarded by the district and the block committees of the Congress should find a mention on the list of three.

But as there was no consensus on these issues, primarily because 17 of the 27 members of the Election Committee are themselves seeking tickets either for themselves or someone close or related to them, it was finally decided that the Chief Minister and Delhi Congress president should decide on how to approach the issue before forwarding the names to the Screening Committee.

With over 1,600 people applying for tickets, and some seats like Trilok Puri getting up to 70 applications, the leadership has an onerous task at hand in deciding the candidates.

“Unfortunately, this has meant that the exercise undertaken by the District and Block levels as also by the observers appointed by the Congress vice-president to identify three best candidates from every segment went waste. What was the point of it all when ultimately it is Ms. Dikshit and Mr. Agarwal who would decide on the candidates,” questioned a leader.

However, another leader added that this was probably the best option available before the quarrelling leaders of the party. “The biggest problem would have been faced by the seven Congress MPs from Delhi. Their support for certain names would have become known and this would have led to resentment among those they would not have supported. With the Lok Sabha election just months away, no one wanted that scenario. But now they can safely say the final decision was not theirs.”

With the Aam Aadmi Party queering the pitch of the election, and the BJP trying to cash in on the Modi factor, some in the Congress, like Ms. Dikshit, have been staunchly supporting retaining all the sitting MLAs. They believe it gives them the best possibility to go into the polls seeking a record fourth consecutive term.




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