Cash-starved Congress has realised it cannot afford to be generous. In a U-turn, the party is asking ticket applicants to pay a “refundable” deposit, which will be returned if they fail to get a ticket.
Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh had announced on Sunday that the practice of taking Rs 10,000 for general seats and Rs 5,000 for SC seats has been done away with, though to ensure there are only serious contenders for party tickets, they will have to show two voters per booth.
The Congress Bhawan here witnessed high drama on Friday when some applicants opposed the move of taking money despite Capt’s announcement. Some leaders also raised objection to no receipts being issued to the applicants. The party was later at pains to explain that the money was being taken as a “refundable” deposit only from candidates who had submitted complete applications.
“The deposit is taken every election. The more important criterion is that the applicants need to show two voters per booth. Only those applications are being accepted that fulfil this stipulation. The deposit will be refunded to contenders who do not get the ticket,” Amarinder told HT. According to party sources, in 2012 state elections and earlier polls, there was no scrutiny of applications and all were accepted, complete or incomplete, and no money was refunded.
“The application process this time is different from earlier elections. We are neither accepting incomplete applications nor taking any deposit against these,” PPCC general secretary in charge of Congress office Capt Sandeep Sandhu said. He also denied that receipts were not being issued to the applicants.
But some applicants dubbed the party’s move of refunding money a face-saver. “If the seriousness of a ticket-seeker has to be judged by showing that he knows each and every booth of his constituency and at least two would vote for him per booth, what purpose would be served by taking a refundable deposit?” questioned a party leader, requesting anonymity.
“Amarinder announced no money will be taken, but the decision was rolled back as an afterthought, as the party is scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to funds and applications fetch a huge amount of money. Two back-toback poll drubbings in the state and being out of power at the Centre and most states has left the Congress coffers empty,” the party leader added.
Even by simple arithmetic, the funds thus collected would add up to lakhs of rupees from 117 seats, though the party contends the number of applications will come down owing to the two-voter-per-booth rule.
The last date for submitting applications is August 15. To qualify as contenders, all MLAs too have been asked to clear their dues of one month’s salary per year.