As a part of the unique experiment by Congress national vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the party would be selecting names of candidates on two out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan through a referendum. These two parliamentary seats – Bikaner and Jhunjhunu – are among 16 LS seats in India on which the candidates would be selected through referendum. A 20-member primary team (Congress Election Commission) from New Delhi would commence the referendum process from Wednesday, February 12.
From Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, Pankaj Mehta and Shushil Sharma would be the coordinators for Bikaner and Jhunjhunu Lok Sabha seats respectively. Sources said that the primaries team would complete the referendum in Bikaner within a week and then it would move on to Jhunjhunu.
Prior to the referendum, the primaries team of Congress Election Commission would be visiting Assembly areas in order to verify the voter list of Congressmen they got from Delhi. Following the verification, a final voter list would be published and nominations would begin. If there are discrepancies found in the list, the same would be verified. Those seeking a change in the vote list would need to deposit Rs1,000.
If needed, voting under the referendum would be conducted in Bikaner and Jhunjhunu and the result will be declared after counting of votes on the same day. The primary team would need to complete the process within two weeks on the two seats. Sources believe that the primary team would declare the Congress candidates on Bikaner and Jhunjhunu till February 25. “I have been made coordinator for the selection of candidate on Bikaner constituency. Nobody will be able to communicate directly with the primaries team from Delhi. Our work will be to coordinate between the contestants and leaders,” said Pankaj Mehta, coordinator, primaries team Congress Election Commission).
Referendum in Rajasthan
Who will vote?
Voters would be Congressmen who would be drawn from different divisions of the party in the constituencies it is conducting a referendum. The party has decided on 19 different categories of ‘voters’ who will cast their franchise in the primaries and help in finalising the candidate who will ultimately contest the seat. Voters include, MP, candidates who lost the last LS polls, MLAs, candidates who lost the Assembly polls, ex-MLA, Zila Pramukh, sarpanch, members of Zila Parishad, panchayat samiti, AICC member, PCC member, members of youth and women units, NSUI and Sewadal functionaries.
How many voters per seat?
Around 1,200 to 1,500 voters would be shortlisted from the different categories for the selection process for two constituencies where the referendum is taking place.
As state Congress gets ready to finalise its candidates like the US does through its primaries, dna gives you a low-down on how it would be done in our backyard
Criteria for LS candidate
The party has set these criteria for its prospective candidates: Applicant must believe in Congress ideology, should be a member of the party for at least 5 years, should not have a criminal background, has not been suspended by the party, has served as an office bearer in any capacity, should be of minimum age of 25 years. The candidate should not have contested the last polls from another party.
5 minutes to impress voters
Like in the US, the candidates would get some time to keep their views before the voters. But, unlike in the US, they would get just five minutes to prove they are worthy of contesting the polls. Voters would have to show their ID cards to cast ballot.