The American-style primaries, envisaged by Congress vice- president Rahul Gandhi to infuse a transparency in the selection of candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the 128-year-old party, has
got off to an unsure start.
So far, primaries have taken place in two constituencies. In North Kolkata, there was only one candidate who got elected unopposed. In Guwahati, where there were six nominees, the high command has been
receiving complaints against the way the primary was conducted.
Senior leader from Assam confided to dna, that Manas Bora who has won the primary in Guwahati had spent pots of money on panchayats and other contenders to win the election. Manas is the son of Assam social welfare minister Akon Bora. "We were hooted and booted when we went to fill our nominations. Many of us had boycotted the process," said the leader. Out of the 1,400 votes in Assam only 800 had polled in the primary.
In Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, the seat of late Congress leader Sis Ram Ola it is his daughter in law Raj Bala and his grand son Amit Ola have filed the nomination. "Ultimately, it will come to the family. So where
is the question of choosing the candidate," said another leader.
In Sant Kabir Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, the primary that was scheduled for Tuesday was called off. Politics and power play have already entangled this new democratic process. It is the clout of local leaders that is turning out to be the decisive factor for filing nominations for contesting in the primaries.
In Delhi, Congress party's chief spokesperson Ajay Maken was amongst the first few to voluntarily opt for primaries in his constituency.
However, besides Maken, no one else has filed nomination for participating in the primary for the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat. Sources in Delhi Congress have confirmed that no one else will be filing nominations from New Delhi seat. The last date for filing nominations for New Delhi seat is Thursday.
Besides the New Delhi seat, there will be a primary for the selection of candidate for North East Delhi Lok Sabha seat as well. While the last date for filling nominations is March 4, sources have confirmed
that JP Agarwal, the sitting MP from the constituency will also not face any competition. "Only Agarwal and Jagdish Tytler are expected to file nominations from North East Delhi. Tytler who is an accused in the
1984 Sikh riots, will not be able to make it, paving way for Agarwal," said a source.
While the initiative is being looked at as a good intention, Congressmen feel that the party workers do not seem to be prepared.
Party workers do not seem to be too enthusiastic about the novel idea as Gandhi attempts to set up a democratic process for choosingcandidates and to rebut the charge that the family and high command, and not merit, are the deciding factor in the choice of candidates.
While the Congress scion has been keen about the primaries, others believe that it is just an eyewash and does not work in the Indian system. "The earlier system was better. At least, there were three to four names for every seat. Now it is a well managed exercise, to ensure that all contenders are eliminated at the very first level," added the source.
Sources also informed that money has already started changing hands in Delhi to ensure that competing nominees are kept out well in time and the one nominated does not face any competition while voting in the primary.
Close to 1,000 party workers will be voting in the primaries. They will include block presidents, district presidents, area councilors, MLAs and other senior party leaders. Those expelled from the party or
rebels will not be given the right to vote. Prominent citizens of the area, including lawyers, chartered accountants, trade union heads and panchayat heads or head of medical council who are not associated with
any party can vote in the primary.
Some in Delhi also feel that with a strong anti-Congress wave in the capital and the party having been completely wiped out of Delhi, not many are keen on contesting the elections. "Nobody would want to fight
an election where the chances of winning are bleak," added a party worker.