CEA issues dos and don’ts for ‘fair’ Congress presidential election  

Central Election Authority issues code of conduct barring office-bearers from campaigning for any candidate; Shashi Tharoor hails the move

October 03, 2022 06:25 pm | Updated October 04, 2022 09:29 am IST - New Delhi:

Chairman of Congress’ Central Election Authority (CEA) Madhusudan Mistry with party leaders at AICC headquarters in New Delhi on September 30, 2022.

Chairman of Congress’ Central Election Authority (CEA) Madhusudan Mistry with party leaders at AICC headquarters in New Delhi on September 30, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

In an effort to ensure neutrality in the Congress presidential poll on October 17, the party’s Central Election Authority (CEA) on Monday issued a code of conduct that barred office-bearers from campaigning for any candidate.

The note, issued by CEA Chairman Madhusudan Mistry, stated that Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor are contesting the Congress President’s election in “their personal capacity and the delegates are free to elect any one of them, as per their choice, through ballot paper”.

Also read | Shashi Tharoor: the president the Congress needs but won’t get

“Utmost care must be taken to ensure that there is no mala fide campaign against any candidate. The same would bring disgrace to the party. The sensitivity of the election process must be upheld at any cost,” read one of the seven guidelines issued by Mr. Mistry.

The CEA’s note is significant in the backdrop of Mr. Kharge being labelled as an “establishment candidate” while Mr. Tharoor is viewed as the challenger of “status quo” in the party.

Gehlot’s claim

On Sunday, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, one of the proposers of Mr. Kharge, had described Mr. Tharoor as an “elite” and predicted a one-sided election in favour of Mr. Kharge.

The Congress party, technically, has been holding organisational elections at regular intervals but for the past 22 years, there has never been a contest for the top post and it has remained with the Gandhi family. The last election was in November 2000, in which party chief Sonia Gandhi had defeated her rival Jitendra Prasada.

Also Read | Congress president to be elected via fair process, says party election authority chief Madhusudan Mistry

Gearing up for the October 17 polling, the CEA document stressed that it is the duty of poll officials such as the Pradesh Returning Officers (PRO) of every State unit or the Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) to ensure that polling is done in an orderly manner and ensure that “the election is fairly conducted”.

Mr. Mistry’s note said All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretaries/in-charges, secretaries, joint secretaries, PCC chiefs, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leaders, heads of frontal organisations, chiefs of departments, cells and all official spokespersons “shall not campaign for or against contesting candidates.”

“If they wish to support any candidate, they must first resign from their organisational post, after that they participate in the campaign process,” the CEA guidelines said.

Arrangements in State

The model code of conduct also makes it clear that when a candidate visits a State to campaign among the 9,000-odd delegates, who make up the electoral college, PCCs must extend due courtesies, including making arrangements like a meeting venue, chairs, public announcement system.

No PCC office-bearer, however, can convene a meeting in his personal capacity. “Organising the meeting is the task of the proposer or the supporters of the contesting candidates,” the one-page note said.

During the election, no candidate can use vehicles for bringing voters nor resort to any “undesired pamphleteering” or any other kind of publication propaganda. “Controverters of these procedures shall render the candidate’s election invalid and make them liable for disciplinary action,” Mr. Mistry’s note warned.

Also read | G-23 members cave in, back Kharge in presidential polls

“I welcome this announcement by ⁦@INCIndia⁩ Chief Election Authority on the party’s presidential elections,” tweeted Mr. Tharoor, adding that he had resigned as the chief of Professionals’ Congress last month.

On Sunday, Mr. Kharge had also reiterated that he had stepped down as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha while three spokespersons — Gourav Vallabh, Deepender Hooda and Syed Naseer Hussain — had resigned as party spokespersons to campaign for him.

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