THE CONGRESS may finally break away from its norm of announcing candidates for the Lok Sabha polls just a day before filing nominations. As part of its preparations for the 2014 General Election, the party recently announced the formation of an Election Coordination Committee (ECC). As Lok Sabha MPs serving on the ECC need time to focus on their own constituencies, the committee also includes Rajya Sabha MPs.
Congress leaders seem hopeful that the move will prove to be a headstart to the 2014 election. The ECC has been further divided into three sub-groups: pre-poll alliances, manifesto and government programmes, and the communication and publicity sub-groups.
Just days after the announcement, the committee led by Rahul Gandhi has already started work on the task ahead, analysing the party’s prospects in 18 states, including Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, West Bengal, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.
The committee has sought an internal report from all constituencies in these states, after which appropriate strategies will be put in place. Observers are being sent to each of the constituencies. They have been instructed not to meet Congress leaders or MPs in the constituencies, but make independent assessment of the situation at the ground level. This exercise is currently underway.
Among other things, the observers will assess the popularity of Congress leaders in their constituencies, and how the people perceive them. They will assess how accessible the leaders are to the public, and also where they figure in the caste combinations. The implementation of Central government schemes in the constituency and how effective they have been will also be analysed. The Congress also wants ground details on how an incumbent MP interacts with the people of his or her constituency. And importantly, word on formidable opponents, if any, who would be contesting against the Congress candidate. A questionnaire on these lines has been given to the observers. The report of the observers will be confidential and privy only tothe ECC.
The report will be one of the key factors in ticket distribution for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In fact, whether to repeat the incumbent candidate or not will be decided after a careful perusal of the report. Other deserving candidates from a particular constituency will also be taken into account.
An interesting addition in the report is the assessment of the image and character of the candidate, whether any criminal or civil cases are pending, and if so, the status of the cases.
Whether this helps weed out the criminals and the corrupt, or warn candidates in advance to clean their books, it’s clear that the Congress is taking a long, hard look at its prospects in 2014.
Ashhar Khan is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.