Want a Congress ticket to contest Punjab elections? Prove your worth by showing you know two voters per booth. The pro forma prepared by the party for inviting applications from candidates in Punjab will ask them to give details of at least two voters from each booth in their constituency along with the copy of their voter cards.
The ticket hopefuls have to fill the pro forma and send it to the party office at Chandigarh before August 15 from where these will be forwarded to New Delhi. But the Congress top brass differ on the futility of the exercise. Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh says the rationale it is to ensure that only serious candidates apply. “At times, people just jump into the fray and do not even know how many booths are there in their constituency. We should know how serious they are,” he told HT.
But newly appointed secretary in-charge for party affairs in Punjab Asha Kumari differs. She says the idea is to create a manpower bank. “The Congress has a set process for finalising candidates through screening and election committees. Candidates can prove their following by giving names of genuine voters in each booth in their constituency. It will help us reach out to them and make them work for the party during elections,” said Kumari.
But the spit in the party is wide open. Several senior leaders believe it will fuel more contenders per seat and worsen party’s problem of plenty. “It’s not difficult to find two voters per booth for a ticket hopeful. If there are 200 booths in a constituency, can a candidate prove his worth by knowing 400 people? Many will line up in the ticket list as the party has said those denied tickets will be suitably adjusted in the government if voter to power. Also, it will give a ready list of potential rebels to rival parties,” a senior MLA said.
The idea mooted by strategist Prashant Kishor had faced resistance from within the party but he has succeeded to prevail. The “Halke Vich Captain ” programme, being organised by his team I-PAC, is encouraging more contenders by allowing crowd-puller leaders to put up their banners outside the venue and deliver a speech. In the recent event at Dera Bassi, party leaders Deepinder Dhillon, Manpreet ‘Bunny’ Sandhu and Jaspal Singh ‘Sarpanch’, all of whom had mobilised crowds, placed their banners and addressed the gathering.
More the merrier?
Congress insiders say the party is doing so as part of a strategy. “The clamour for tickets proves people see Congress as a winning party. We are letting aspirants compete to stake claim to the ticket. If they are building political capital for themselves, but at the same time, working on the ground and mobilising workers and voters for party’s programmes and create more visibility for Captain, it does the party no harm. It will also help bring forth fresh faces. Finally, the best candidate will win the ticket,” a party source said.
The I-PAC, with more than 150 members fanning across all the 117 constituencies in the state, is also trying to gather feedback on the winnable candidates.
But naysayers believe the strategy will further divide the faction-ridden party. “Former Punjab Congress chief Partap Bajwa has left a legacy on contenders at several seats by creating his B-team. No wonder there are clashes in every meeting of Amarinder. We will again end up fighting among ourselves like in the previous elections,” another senior party leader said on a condition of anonymity.