By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
The Congress is trying to improvise a formula by which it can field prospective winners in the upcoming assembly polls, widely seen as a precursor to next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
Four of the five poll-bound states are a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP. In Mizoram, the Congress is pitted against the Mizoram People’s Conference, but is comfortably placed.
Congress managers have laid down new criteria for distribution of party tickets. Though winnability is the main requirement, the party has decided not to blindly follow the policy of re-nomination. According to the new guidelines, those who have lost two consecutive elections or the last election by a margin of 15,000 or more votes or lost their deposits would not be considered for the party ticket.
Those who lost the last election by around 1,000 votes may, however, be re-nominated.
As the caste factor has an overwhelming influence in electoral politics, candidates belonging to different social groups will be considered, depending upon the dominance of a particular class in those constituencies.
This is in line with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s “unfinished agenda” of giving backward castes, Dalits and tribals their share in the party organisation and also in distribution of party tickets.
He has often regretted that young people, particularly belonging to marginalised sections of society, had not been given adequate representation in his party. He has, however, also consistently spoken against playing politics of caste and religion.
Out of power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh since 2003, the Congress is desperate to defeat the BJP here. In Delhi and Rajasthan, on the other hand, the ruling Congress faces strong anti-incumbency. Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit has created a record as the longest-serving woman chief minister in independent India. At the helm for 15 years, she is seeking a fourth term.
In Rajasthan, despite Gehlot’s big successes such as IIT Jodhpur and an inclusive social agenda, local issues of road, water and power mismanagement may turn voters against his government.
Some sitting legislators could be dropped and fresh faces fielded to beat the anti-incumbency factor, Congress sources said. Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said all sitting legislators would have to apply for tickets; a decision will be taken based on their performance and image. “There will be no sitting-getting formula this time,” he said.
A large number of women candidates are demanding tickets in these elections. The All-India Mahila Congress president Shobha Oza has urged the party leadership to consider at least one woman candidate from each district.
“We have demanded representation in each district of all the election-bound states,” she said. But it remains to be seen how effectively the Congress will follow these guidelines. Some of the norms set by Rahul Gandhi were violated in the very first elections that were held in Karnataka after his anointment as party vice-president.