Sunday, December 26, 2010

Congress working on Rahul formula for ‘viable’ candidates

By Dilip Awasthi
Rahul Gandhi’s grand plan for Uttar Pradesh is unfolding now. The Congress general secretary’s handpicked AICC volunteers have launched a massive hunt to short-list ‘winnable’ candidates for 2012 U.P. assembly elections. All these volunteers are drawn from different states so that only ‘merit’ prevails. They will report directly to Rahul.

The 10 volunteers have been allotted around 40 assembly constituencies each so that all the 403 seats are covered. They are traveling through their respective areas and interacting at the grass-root level. Their brief is to suggest a panel of three to five candidates for each seat in the order of `viability’. They have to go into the logistics of past elections and make final recommendations in the prescribed AICC format. The deadline is March 31, 2011.

The AICC instructions issued to these observers by general secretary Digvijaya Singh, also incharge of U.P., categorically state: “You have to submit your report directly to Shri Rahul Gandhi in a closed cover marked as `Confidential’….. The report is not to be shared with any other in the AICC or PCC.” Explains Singh, “The idea is to let Rahulji have an unadulterated feel of the ground.”

The observers have been drawn from different states. Three are from MP, two each from Mumbai and Delhi and one each from Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat. The instructions say: “Instead of meeting the workers in the circuit house, you should try to meet/contact commen people and take their opinion about the most viable candidates.” The observers are supposed to attend village chaupals (informal meetings) organized by the prospective candidates and make their assessment based on the spot feedback.

Most of these observers have already finished the first round. Some are into their third leg and already have had interim interaction with Rahul Gandhi. Muzzaffar Hussain, a Congress MLC from Mumbai has held more than 80 chaupals in eight eastern U.P. districts between November 15 and December 16. The district Congress President, the MP, MLAs of the area are invariably present in these chaupals. Says PL Punia Congress MP from Bara Banki, who has been attending these chaupals, “ You cannot fib in these chaupals. If you are popular it shows.”

The exercise has been happening simultaneously in other parts. Says Congress Legislature Party chief Pramod Tewari, “ The idea is to finish this homework and have final lists ready by May, 2011.” But obviously these AICC observers are having a tough time navigating through vested interests, pulls and pushes of the local leaders. Congress tickets have been traditionally decided through lobbying or pressure tactics. Says PCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, “ This exercise will give us a fair and unbiased base to work on. The intention is to get the best possible candidates.”

The last point of the AICC instructions is even more unnerving for the local leaders. The circular states: “If there is a powerful and popular person, who is not as yet with the Congress Party, you should try to win him over….”

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