Buoyed by latest by-poll results, Congress has decided to choose candidates for ensuing elections in four states solely on inputs from the ground. In order to strengthen ties with the ally Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, the party high command has asked to concede those seats to the NCP where the Congress has lost consecutively in past two or more elections.
Choosing candidates on the basis of winnability and from ground surveys means denying tickets to a large number of sitting MLAs, including ministers, as the party is fighting anti-incumbency in atleast three states — Maharashtra, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir.
Source told dna that Congress president Sonia Gandhi has approved of Rahul Gandhi's proposal to pick up candidates on ground surveys to overcome local level anti-incumbency. The party vice-president has convinced his mother that there was nothing to lose in experimenting with new faces in order to re-build the party, as reports suggest a rout for the party in these four states.
In the last Lok Sabha polls Rahul's plans had gone awry when Sonia succumb to pressure from several senior leaders, chief ministers and general secretaries that the best bet were sitting MPs.
At a recent meeting of party general secretaries she told them that ignoring ground surveys and views of local workers had hurt the party badly. Also, those who worked against party candidates in the Lok Sabha elections would be denied ticket.
In the closed door Pradesh Election Committee meeting, Congress screening committee chairman PC Chacko also read out guidelines by Sonia Gandhi for the Haryana elections. In all likelihood, the same guidelines would be followed for other poll-bound states too.
Accordingly, state and district units have been told not to accord an undue weightage to sitting MLAs unless they are really popular. The dictate has caused a consternation in party nationwide as it means that a large number of new faces would be fielded in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and J&K.
The guidelines also include not to recommend candidates who lost assembly polls twice in a row or lost the previous election with over 20,000 votes or lost their deposits or secured third positions. While those coming third in the last elections are also to be avoided, exception may be made if the difference is less than five per cent in the votes polled by him and the winner. The guidelines also lay down that preference will be given to local candidates and women ensuring that those selected have a clean record.