"I pledge not to rebel": Congress makes Punjab ticket seekers take oath
- Congress is inviting "applications" from candidates for the Punjab Assembly polls, well in advance
- Aspirants have to give an oath that they won\'t rebel even if denied a ticket
- What does the oath say?
- Will it work?
Call it a political compulsion arising out of emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or perhaps it is a lesson learnt from the last election, the Congress party in Punjab has started choosing its candidates well ahead of next year's polls.
Last time the candidates were declared at the eleventh hour which had led to the Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh washing his hands off and proceeding on a holiday which eventually led to the Congress' defeat and return of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). The grand old party is proceeding in a time bound manner this time.
However, it remains to be seen how it contains factionalism and the rebellions which emanate when multiple contenders are not able to get tickets.
Congress president Amarinder has said that ticket aspirants have been asked to submit their applications to the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee by 15 August. He has conveyed that winnability will be the sole criteria for selection instead of the earlier practice of trying to appease leaders, communities and factions. Amarinder has made it clear clear to all the workers that they will have to support whichever candidate the party fields.
Interestingly, the party has put a loyalty clause in the application form for ticket aspirants. The clause says," I hereby give an undertaking and take a pledge that if I am not selected for any constituency on behalf of the Congress, I will not contest on any seat against any Congress candidate in this election and will fully support the official Congress candidate".
This is pretty much on the lines of the loyalty affidavits that the party had taken from Congressmen in West Bengal recently.
While there are attempts to make an issue of this clause, sources close to Amarinder say that the clause in the proforma is nothing new. "Earlier also the party used to take a pledge to this effect, but it was never adhered to. The same can happen again as the application is no legal document. But still it is an effort to instill discipline among the rank and file of the party," sources said.
Amarinder has announced a two pronged strategy to contain dissidence.
He has been saying that all the other deserving candidates who are left out, will be accommodated in the government. All the chairmanships of various corporations and boards and other positions will be reserved for such people only. "No MLA or a person who contests the elections will be given these positions," he said.
He has also announced that this time only one person from a family would be getting a ticket and has made the first announcement from his own household. Although this did not go down well with several Congress heavyweights who were eying tickets for their wards and relatives besides themselves, this did send a positive message among the workers.
Amarinder has also been trying to dispel the notion that his strategist Prashant Kishor and his team from IPAC would have a say in screening of candidates and allotment of tickets. He has underlined that the allotment of the party tickets for contesting elections is the sole prerogative of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He said that the IPAC only has an advisory role.
"Party administration and implementation of the party programme and strategy has been and will always remain the sole prerogative of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee," he pointed following reports in the local media that Kishor's team would be involved in ticket distribution. Referring to the application form issued by the party for the ticket aspirants, he said, this is not for the first time that party has asked for applications.
Elaborating on the ticket distribution, Amarinder said, the PCC will screen the candidates and submit the list to the All India Congress Committee which will refer it to the Central Election Committee (CEC), headed by Sonia Gandhi, who is the final authority.
Observers feel that it is a good decision of the party to start seeking applications from aspirants well in time. But at the same time it is being pointed that the challenge for Amarinder and his team remains that the entire process be carried out with complete transparency.
"The ruckus begins once they start interviewing candidates. It is then that the aspirants turn up with their supporters, threaten to walk out of the party and even go to the extent of issuing threats to ensure the party's defeat by contesting as rebels or supporting opponents".
In the last few days the party has reconstituted its various cells in the state. These include youth welfare cell, freedom fighters' cell, grievances cell, legal department, intellectual cell and pravasi cell.
Meanwhile, the party continues to witness skirmishes among its workers at various public programmes. This keeps sending the message that the Congress 'culture' is intact and thriving for now.