Not many young takers for its tickets has left the grand-old Congress restless. With Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) aiming to lure young voters with youth candidates, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Punjab state chief Captain Amarinder Singh have promised 35 seats in 2017 elections to the youth.
According to the state Youth Congress and Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) sources, the figure of youth applicants is “around 100”. Most among these are past and present office-bearers of the Punjab Youth Congress or scions of political families.
“The number of past and present Youth Congress office-bearers who have applied through us is 57. In total, around 100 applications have been received from youth candidates,” Punjab Youth Congress president Amarpreet Singh Lalli told HT. The age limit to qualify as a youth, Lalli said, is between 25 and 40 years. Lalli himself is an applicant from Garhshankar.
The discomfort of the PPCC in revealing the numbers is telling. Even a week after applications came to a close on August 15, it refused to divulge figure of youth applicants saying the list is still being compiled. But sources in the PPCC reveal the figure is “between 100 and 110”.
But Amarinder on Monday described the response from the younger generation as “overwhelming”, saying most of them are “graduates and post-graduates”. Claiming that the exact figures has not been worked out as yet, he pegged the number of youth applicants as “quite substantial” and “around 30 to 35% “. He said the total number of ticket applicants was 1,661 and the response was “overwhelming and indicative of which way the wind is blowing”.
Amarinder did not respond to messages and calls on the number of youth applicants.
Party insiders said in the August 16 meeting of Rahul with the Punjab top brass, including Amarinder, state affairs in-charge Asha Kumari and campaign chairperson Ambika Soni, there was a discussion on youth faces that could be fielded.
“Rahul is not too keen on scions of political families, but a majority of applicants are sons of MLAs, MPs and former MLAs and Youth Congress office-bearers. The party has even approached certain youth candidates to apply on seats of sitting MLAs. Unlike earlier polls when Congress fielded youth from tough seats, Rahul this time wants them to be fielded from even winnable ones,” said a party leader.
There is also no clarity in the party on the age for youth. A senior leader said it could even be 50, if sons of a few political families have to be accommodated.
The list of youth aspirants with a political lineage include Vikram Chaudhary, son of MP Santokh Chaudhary, Kamaljit Brar, son of former MLA Darshan Brar, Deepinder Randhawa, estranged cousin of MLA Sukhjinder Randhawa who has applied from latter’s seat Dera Baba Nanak and Fatehgarh Churian, Karanvir Dhillon, grandson of MLA Amrik Dhillon, and Angad Singh, son of MLA Guriqbal Kaur. The party’s dilemma is ticket to a few family scions will result in heartburn in others.
‘Carrot-and-stick’ approach of Capt
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder is trying to invoke unity among ticket aspirants in the party by adopting a “carrot-and-stick” policy. He made the conditions to qualify for chairmanships of boards and corporations, if Congress comes to power, more stringent. In a statement on Monday, Amarinder said only those applicants will be eligible for these posts from whose constituencies the party candidates win.
Amarinder had earlier said those denied tickets will be “adjusted” as chairpersons. “Those who will not be able to make it to the final list will be equal stakeholders in the government formation as campaign drivers. Their performance during the elections will qualify them for positions in the government later. The assessment of winability will be made at multiple levels and through multiple channels. The party has adopted a scientifically foolproof method to ensure that the best candidate gets nominated,” he said.