As a pre-emptive measure to minimise the damage in poll-bound states, the Congress has sought to reach out to potential rebel candidates for the first time. This is a departure from the party’s practice of pacifying rebel candidates to withdraw from the contest after the list is made public; this time, it is doing so before its nominees are announced.
The change in strategy is due to the opinion polls and internal surveys predicting unfavourable results for the party.
The central leadership has accordingly directed senior leaders and party MPs from Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to soothe the ruffled feathers so that potential trouble-makers fall in line.
The leaders have also been told to assure those who are set to be denied tickets and also those whose names do not figure in the lists announced so far that they will be “suitably accommodated” in various capacities if the party wins these elections.
“We can’t give tickets to everyone. So, there is a need to reach out to the unhappy ones. We are telling them that they will be given key responsibilities either in the government or the party after the polls,” a senior Congress functionary said.
In the recent past, the rebels spoilt the party’s chances in Punjab despite being on a strong wicket against the Shiromani Akali Dal. In Uttarakhand, too, the rebel factor turned a comfortable victory for the Congress over the BJP into a photo finish with just one seat separating the two parties.
This time, the Congress is trying out another change of strategy in damage-control: to prevent the rebels from jumping into the fray or switch loyalties at the last minute, the party has decided to keep its lists under wraps and wait for the BJP to announce the names of its contestants first.
The move contradicted a large number of party leaders who had repeatedly claimed that the names of candidates in all the poll-bound states would be announced two months before the elections.
But as the coming assembly elections in five states are billed as semi-finals before the finals in 2014, the Congress is trying everything to defy the poll predictions and spring a surprise.