Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s much vaunted plan to promote internal democracy in the party by distributing tickets for general elections through primaries has run into rough weather in Mandsaur, with one of the candidates quitting the process midway to protest against alleged rigging in the voters’ list.
Former district Congress chief Surendra Sethi had filed his candidature for the Mandsaur seat against sitting MP Meenakshi Natarajan.
However, even before the result of the primary were announced, Sethi decided to walk away. “Out of the total 1,400 names in the voter list, 500 were fake. They were not from this region and had come from various other places to rig the polls. You can imagine that if 500 fake voters have come with an intent to vote for my rival then what the result of this election would be,” Sethi said.
In the result announced on Monday, Meenakshi came first. “Out of the total 1,405 votes, she got 706 while Sethi got 50 votes. The rest of the voters did not turn up,” said Rameshwar Neekhra, the party’s state vice-president.
However, a section of the party officials indicated there was some substance in Sethi’s allegation.
“This whole process of internal democracy was a farce and it was a foregone conclusion that Meenakshi, who is known to be one of the closest Rahul Gandhi aides, will win,” a party officer-bearer said.
Earlier, an internal survey had received negative feedback about Meenakshi’s performance. According to party sources, the feedback had suggested that she was not paying enough attention to her constituency and the party workers.
Neekhra, however, denied there was any kind of rigging in the elections. “The simple reason why Sethi is crying foul now is that he didn’t get the support of the party workers. Rather than running away, he should have waited for the results,” he said.
As per the party’s guidelines, only those from the Congress and elected representatives or members of the party’s frontal organisations can vote in the primaries.