Ever since January 17 when Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi spoke of introducing primary elections in 16 Lok Sabha constituencies to open up the selection process for the party’s candidates for the 2014 general elections, the initiative has been compared with the primary elections conducted in America and the candidate selection process adopted by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the Delhi assembly polls in December, 2013.
Prakash Joshi, AICC secretary and in-charge of the primaries pilot project denies that the Congress primaries are inspired by the AAP model. “We began internal elections in the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India in 2008. That was before the AAP came into existence,” he says.
To get an AAP ticket for Delhi assembly elections, applicants had to submit application forms with the signatures of 100 supporters. A screening committee had then shortlisted applicants by interviewing them and the list had been posted on the party’s wesite for feedback.
Shortlisted candidates presented their vision before active volunteers of the party, after which the volunteers had given their preferences for the assembly candidates from their constituencies through voting. The political affairs committee had been the final authority in the selection process.
“At that time, we did not have a database of active volunteers. Many people had said they had wanted to participate in voting but we were not sure if they were our volunteers,” recalls Dilip Pandey, AAP leader, speaking of the challenges the party faced in implementing the process.
In the US, parties conduct primaries to select candidates for local and presidential elections.