Congress decentralises candidate selection for Assembly elections

The Congress is changing the way it selects candidates for the Assembly elections this time, a leader familiar with the development says.

Instead of short-listing candidates in Delhi, the selection or screening panels are moving to the States to make the process more participatory and based on feedback, even from the voters.

In a State like Assam, the first list can come out early as local leaders plan to seek approval from the party’s central election committee through a Zoom meeting.

The change in selection procedure seems to be the result of a letter sent by the group of 23 dissenters (G-23) to party president Sonia Gandhi last August, questioning why the party “high command” in Delhi appoints even district- and block-level functionaries.

Now in Assam, for example, the party has deputed former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, a key member of the G-23, to head the panel for selecting potential candidates.

On Wednesday, Mr. Chavan and other All India Congress Committee functionaries held consultations. Of the 126 seats in the State, the Congress may contest up to 100 and leave the rest to the allies: the Bodo People’s Front, the All India United Democratic Front, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India.

“We will identify nearly three candidates for each seat on the basis of ground surveys and feedback from workers in the constituency; thereafter, the opinion of the district presidents will be taken. Since Bhupesh Baghelji [Chhattisgarh Chief Minister] is one of the observers here, party workers from Chhattisgarh have also done ground surveys,” a senior leader from Assam says.

A similar model is being followed in Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu as well.

The party, under the supervision of the Data Analytics Department, is now adopting a two-stage process to zero in on potential candidates: first, it conducts a poll through SMS among party workers to name one person who they like to see as the party candidate; then a “winnability” analysis is done by taking voter feedback from every booth for the names that got the most votes of the workers.

“This process is actually a step towards transparency that Rahul Gandhi piloted for the 2018 Assembly election,” Praveen Chakravarty, head of the department, told The Hindu.

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