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Cong set to implement Rahul's Lok Sabha polls 'experiment'

January 29, 2014 23:05 IST

The party may announce Somen Mitra as the Lok Sabha candidate from North Kolkata whose name is set to be decided upon following intra-party elections to choose contenders -- a move initiated by the Congress vice-president to ensure transparency in ticket-distribution system. Renu Mittal reports.

As the next step to Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Experiments with Truth’, the Congress party’s first candidate for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections may be announced on February 9.

North Kolkata MP Somen Mitra, who has just returned to the Congress from the Trinamool Congress, may be the only candidate nominated in the intra-party elections mandated by the party vice president to select the best candidate. 

The ‘experiment’ is being conducted in 15 constituencies spread over different states and the nomination of the candidates for North Kolkata and Guwahati will be held on February 9, and on February 12 if there are more than one candidate in a constituency.

Former Election Commissioner K J Rao would be holding the elections where Congressmen -- from the block-level to the national-level -- would vote for their candidate to represent the party in the Lok Sabha elections.

Mitra, a former Pradesh Congress Committee president of West Bengal, has recently quit Mamata Banerjee’s party. However, his resignation is yet to be accepted. It is expected that no one else would apply for a ticket from the constituency since Mitra is still hugely popular within the Congress party.

What is interesting about the North Kolkata seat is that if Congress announces Mitra as the candidate, it would be a clear indication that the party will have no truck with the Trinamool Congress, since the seat was with the Mamata-led party.

There have been vocal protests within the Congress to avoid any electoral tie up with the Trinamool and the leadership appears inclined to leave the issue open-ended, more so because chances of a post-poll tie up with the Left always exists in case the Congress appears anywhere near to forming the government at the Centre after the general elections.

The Congress and the Left have already struck a deal for the Rajya Sabha nominations with the latter agreeing to support a Congress-endorsed candidate who is not a party person. Senior leaders say they cannot cope with Mamta Banerjee’s tantrums and mood swings anymore.

Meanwhile, former MP Krip Chalia is expected to file his nomination from Guwahati. However, there are chances that he may face competition from other candidates, and in that case the election would be held on February 12.

Rahul Gandhi had mentioned in his January 17 All India Congress Committee meeting that initially 15 Lok Sabha constituencies would decide their own candidates, and the experiment, if successful, would be replicated in more constituencies. The Congress vice president has been a vocal critic of the ticket distribution system and feels that procedures must be radically altered to ensure transparency.

Other constituencies where Rahul’s experiment would be carried on include Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan, Sant Kabir Nagar and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Hoshangabad and Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Bangalore North and Mangalore in Karnataka, Aurangabad and Dhule in Maharashtra, and possibly two seats in Delhi.

Image: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi greets party members in Punjab

Photograph: Vijay Mathur/Reuters

Renu Mittal in New Delhi