Rahul Gandhi wants those who want to contest elections on a Congress party ticket to fill a five-page application form testing their knowledge of the constituency, an assessment of the party's performance there and their previous experience in contesting elections.
An NDTV report points out that the new application procedure is supposed to ensure that “godfathers and regional satraps” don’t play a role in finding candidates for contesting each seat.
The new procedure will be used for the Assembly elections in five states due in November this year, as well as in general elections to be held next year.
"As the Supreme Court also ordered, we have to make sure candidates have no criminal precedent, so this will bring in cleaner and more transparent politics," said Madhu Yaski, a Congress Member of Parliament in the NDTV report.
Meanwhile, the BJP has been quick to dismiss this as yet another “ambitious but impractical Gandhi scheme.”
Earlier this month, a report in DNA newspaper had detailed the protocol to be followed by candidates while filling and submitting the form.
“Highly placed sources in the party said that through the new application forms, the party has sought a detailed account of criminal records, if any, of the candidate,” says the report.
Will the forms help in weeding out unsuitable candidates for the party? Possibly.
However, the difference it makes to the applicant from a voter’s perspective is little, and a long association could be an indication of anything from sycophancy to meaningless party affiliation, as opposed to a sign of the candidate’s credentials.
Other questions seem more like a ‘general knowledge’ quiz for a political applicant than any other validity, which is perhaps a more telling sign of the calibre of applicants a party receives rather than a reflection of the quality of the form itself. There is apparently a need to test applicants on ‘how many booths there are in his area, number of voters and by what margin the party won or lost last time.”
Another question, which is a troubling sign of how much of a given caste-based politics are, is one which asks the applicant the caste-wise population details of the region.
But perhaps the most important question on the form is about the criminal background of the applicant.
According to a recent study done by an NGO (reported here), one-third of sitting Lok Sabha members and an equal number of MLAs in various states are facing criminal charges. According to the report, “trends indicate that those with criminal records were better oriented for a win at the hustings (political campaigning).”
Whether that is something the Congress will be able to overlook and attempt to remedy, even when it might be a case of shooting themselves in the foot very close to the elections remains to be seen. Or is the form just an attempt, as the BJP insinuated, at “public relations”? BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain was quick to point out that Rahul Gandhi’s processes and plans hadn’t helped him win elections in Uttar Pradesh.
While the form might filter out the “immature and non-serious” candidates who don’t even have a basic knowledge of the constituency they are hoping to govern, whether it will result in a better quality of candidate from the voter’s perspective remains doubtful.
Updated Date: Sep 02, 2013 19:40:57 IST