The Congress wants those young at heart, never mind the age. A lukewarm response from youth applicants despite Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh holding out promise of allotting 35 of the 117 assembly tickets to young candidates has forced the party to push the age bar to 45.
With this, the party has been able to match its promise of 35 seats to the youth with nearly the same percentage (33%) of young applicants. The age limit to qualify for a berth in the Punjab Youth Congress is 35 years and the number applicants in this category is “between 100 and 110” by admission of both the Punjab Youth Congress and Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC).
Defending the move, Amarinder said the Constitution fixes minimum age to contest elections at 25 years, but not the maximum age. And it is not surprising as the average age of Congress applicants has been above 50 in previous elections. “Anyone up to 45 years is also a youngster,” he said. Interestingly, Amarinder went on to add that nearly 67% of state voters were youth “below 40 years”.
The PPCC, which had denied having worked out a figure of the youth applicants till Monday evening, cobbled up the numbers before Amarinder’s press conference on Tuesday.
Addressing the media, the state Congress chief said of the 1,661 applicants , 555 are “youth” up to 45 years of age. Barely 6% (116) applications are from women. Despite the “two voter per booth norm”, 1,025 have applied from the general category and 636 from the reserved category.
This is not the first time that Amarinder has flip-flopped on an issue. A few weeks ago, he had announced that the practice of taking Rs 10,000 from general category applicants and Rs 5,000 from reserved ones had been done away with.
But the PPCC did a U-turn within a week and said the deposit would be refunded . Something that seems improbable as the receipt slip has no acknowledgment of the money paid by the applicant. No serial number on the receipts has also raised doubts over fair play. In recent past, Amarinder has also been issuing contradictory statements that “some sitting MLAs will be dropped” and “no MLA will be dropped”.
Capt Amarinder Singh (Patiala urban)
Sunil Jakhar (Abohar)
Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria (Raja Sansi)
OP Soni (Amritsar central)
HIGHEST NUMBER OF APPLICATIONS
Balluana (29); Fazilka (24); Sahnewal, Bhoa, Ropar, Jalalabad (21); Pathankot (20)
UNITY IN SENIORS’ CLUB
While accommodating more “youth” applicants with higher age limit of 45, the entire senior leadership of the party held meetings on Tuesday as heads of various committees, including Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa (agriculture committee), Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (manifesto committee) and Ambika Soni (campaign committee). The junior leadership of the party, including Manpreet Badal, occupied second row at the press conference. AICC secretary Harish Chaudhary had to finally stand below the stage.