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Rahul's primary experiment evades disaster

By Anita Katyal
March 06, 2014 22:39 IST
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Even as questions continue to be raised within the Congress party over Rahul Gandhi’s primary election experiment, the party has managed to avoid a major embarrassment by forcing controversial former MP Jagdish Tytler to withdraw his nomination’s Anita Katyal reports

The Congress managed to wriggle out of a potentially embarrassing situation on Thursday when it succeeded in persuading controversial former MP Jagdish Tytler to withdraw his nomination from the party’s primaries election for the Northeast Delhi Lok Sabha seat.

Tytler’s decision to throw his hat in the ring for the party’s primary election had put the Congress leadership in a spot given the strong animosity the former MP evokes for his alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

In case Tytler had managed to win the primaries election, he would have emerged as the democratically-elected claimant for the Delhi’s Northeast seat in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

This would have presented the Congress with a first-rate crisis as it would have placed the 1984 anti-Sikh riots at the political centre stage, providing the Akali Dal and other Sikh groups with an emotive issue to whip up passions in next month’s general election.

Tytler had been forced to withdraw from the 2009 Lok Sabha race when his nomination had fanned angry protests.

To prevent the Pandora’s Box from opening, the party’s crisis managers worked behind-the-scenes for the past several days to persuade Tytler to pull out from the race voluntarily.

Tytler had initially stood his ground.

His constant refrain was, “The allegations against me are baseless. I have never been named in a case registered against me.”

Although the CBI has filed a closure report in the case against Tytler, it was subsequently rejected by the sessions court which directed the investigating agency to re-examine the witnesses against the former MP.

Tytler eventually gave in on Thursday following a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi who personally requested him to withdraw his nomination.

The party would have been forced to strike his name off the list at the scrutiny stage if Tytler had insisted on contesting the primaries.

This compromise provided a face-saver for both parties.  

Thursday was the last day for the withdrawal of nominations for the election which is to be held on March 11.

The US-style primary elections are being conducted at Rahul’s behest in 16 Lok Sabha seats where office bearers directly elect their candidates for their respective constituencies.

However, Rahul’s experiment in bringing in greater transparency in the selection of candidates has not been a smooth ride.

Union minister Beni Prasad Verma publicly decried this new system, saying it would only encourage the use of money power.

While Verma has dared to speak out, other Congress leaders privately admit that this experiment could end up creating more fissures in the state units, which are already battling intense infighting.

Controversy erupted in Madhya Pradesh when sitting MP Meenakshi Natarajan, known for her proximity to Rahul Gandhi, won the primary election in Mandsaur Lok Sabha constituency.

Former Congress district president from Neemuch, Surendra Sethi -- who was defeated -- was quick to cry foul. He boycotted the poll, alleging that the election had been rigged by Natarajan and her supporters.

There is trouble brewing in Assam after Manas Bora won the Guwahati primary election, which makes him eligible to contest the coming Lok Sabha poll. However, state chief minister Tarun Gogoi is unhappy with his “selection.

Gogoi is learnt to have told the Congress leadership that it may not be possible for him to ensure Bora’s victory in the general election

Gogoi wants the party to nominate Guwahati (East) MLA Captain Robin Bordoloi or state Congress chief Bhubaneswar Kalita for the Guwahati seat. Only these two candidates will be able to win the seat back from the Bharatiya Janata Party, the chief minister has told the Congress leadership.

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