The decision to ‘invite’ applications for contesting Assembly elections has led to resentment.

 

The Chhattisgarh Congress’ decision to “invite” applications for contesting the Assembly elections in the state has led to resentment within the party cadre, who fear that the move may intensify infighting and factionalism and spoil the party’s prospects. Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in November this year.

The state unit fixed a time period—from 1 to 7 August—for receiving the “applications”, by filling a form, from those who are willing to contest the elections.

According to sources, the party received more than 1,900 applications from prospective candidates for 90 Assembly seats. However, sources said such an unprecedented move may boomerang as the majority of the applications will be rejected.

“Since this was done openly, many candidates ‘applied’ for candidature with fanfare. Their expectations are high as their names have become public. But the fact remains that only 90 of them will get tickets finally. This number may come down to 80 in case the party forges an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), for which the two parties are in talks,” said a state Congress source.

The source said the party has never done such an exercise in the past.

“So far the interested candidates would express their desire to contest elections secretly to the state party leaders, who in turn would push for their cases to senior leaders in the AICC. A formal decision was taken by the state election committee and then the screening committee at the national level. Thus names of only those candidates, who were finally selected, would be declared at the final stage. But this time, even before the elections are formally announced, there are over 1,900 candidates,” said the source.

Despite Congress being in bad shape for a long time and out of power for 15 years, the difference of votes between BJP and Congress was merely 0.75 % (BJP 41.04 %, Congress 40.29 %) in the last Assembly elections in 2013. In terms of number of votes, the total difference (for all 90 constituencies) is just 90,000 votes.

In the House of 90, BJP has 49 seats, while Congress has 39. “There is every possibility that the ‘rejected’ candidates may turn ‘rebel’ and try to sabotage the Congress’ prospects, by contesting as independents. Even if one ‘rejected’ candidate gets a minimum of 500 votes as independent candidate, the Congress may lose 9.5 lakh votes, which may cost the party dear. The total number of BJP’s votes was 53.65 lakh, whereas this number was 52.67 lakh for the Congress in the last elections. When the contest is so close, the party cannot afford to lose such a big number of votes, which could have been avoided,” the source pointed out.

The source also alleged that the “shortlisting” process of the candidates after getting the applications is not being done in a transparent manner.

“As per the process, party officials are supposed to hold a meeting in respective constituency, in presence of all the sitting and former MLAs/MPs/district presidents of the area, and discuss the names of the ‘applicants’. However, this is not being done in a transparent manner,” he added.

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