Congress on a mission to weed out candidates with criminal background from ticket seekers - The New Indian Express

Congress on a mission to weed out candidates with criminal background from ticket seekers

Published: 13th October 2013 10:25 AM

Last Updated: 13th October 2013 10:25 AM

As the five States -- Madhya  Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram -- go to polls in the coming months, the Congress is making all efforts to ensure that no ticket is being given to candidates with criminal background to contest the polls.

With this aim in mind, it has asked the ticket aspirants to submit a filled in form, in which they have to specify whether there is a pending case, its nature and the court status.

One of the Congress leaders, who has been camping outside the AICC office at 24 Akbar Road to meet party’s Rajasthan in-charge Gurudas Kamath, flashed a form he has barely filled. “This, he points to the specific column on ‘pending case/which court/status’ which is blank, is the biggest credential this time. Not anything else,” he said.    

The newfangled form is the latest credo in the Congress, which has to follow the Rahul Gandhi diktat -- no candidate with serious criminal charges. The form, with an elaborate section devoted to court cases and criminal charges, is part of the Rahul line. And there is no escape from this.

Kamath and the likes -- Shakeel Ahmed-V Narayanasamy (in-charge of Delhi), Mohan Prakash-Madhusudan Mistry (Madhya Pradesh) and Hariprasad-C P Joshi (Chhattisgarh) -- are tasked to scrutinize the forms that are being filled by the candidates. “There is no option. These are very closely fought elections. We can’t put up candidates who stand the chance of being disqualified after they win,” said Hariprasad and his view is endorsed by Kamath.

Rahul’s outburst on ordinance did not just leave the prime minister and his entourage of favourite ministers with red faces, it is giving the party’s general secretaries and the central election committees, tasked with finalising the list of candidates, jitters.

After such a public stand, there is no question of casually going about the old ways or even brazening it out with a Raja Bhaiyya type induction. If sources are to be believed, one of the reasons Ajit Jogi has been kept away from the Assembly election fray is precisely this. The Congress, which sees a fair chance of striking good luck in Chhattisgarh, riding on a sympathy wave and hoping for an anti-incumbency feeling against Raman Singh, wants to keep Jogi at an arm’s length from being able to lay claim to the CM’s chair. Jogi, who they believe could still swing the State for them, is being wooed with a promise of tickets to his son and wife.

The reason Kawasi Lakma, the Konta MLA who was under a cloud after surviving the Maoist strike on the Congress convoy, is still on the first list of Chhattisgarh candidates along with Mahendra Karma’s wife and Nand Kumar Patel’s son is that he has been cleared in the two cases against him. However, a few sitting Congress MLAs are in for trouble. Korba’s Jai Singh Bhaiyya, Paresh Agarwal from Khallari and Shakrajeet Naik from Raigarh have cases pending against them and might not therefore get tickets this time.

In fact, sources in the party said of the 5-10 per cent sitting MLAs who will be dropped, most have pending cases against them.

Rahul seems to have given strict instructions that he would not tolerate the spectacle of Congress ministers/MLAs resigning because of any ongoing case being brought to conviction. “If you don’t get winning candidates and have to sit in opposition, we will do that,” he has reportedly said. 

The Congress election committee is also factoring in the caste equation of constituencies, as always. One of the reasons for introducing a column  in the application form, with specifications on details of the case, was to ensure that MLAs and aspirants do not get crucified for political cases.

Nonetheless, a total of 21 sitting MLAs in Madhya Pradesh, including Dilip Singh Gurjar (Ujjain), Adal Singh Kansana (Sumawali), R P Dattigaon (Badnawar) and Omkar Singh Markam (Dindori), might have a tough time getting tickets. Similar is the case with 15 MLAs in Rajasthan, including Zahida (Kaman), Rupa Ram (Deedwana), Bharosi Lal (Hindaun) and Zakir Hussain (Makrana).

Delhi has the largest such chunk -- 15 MLAs out of 39. Chief Minister Sheila Diskshit has not left it to Shakeel Ahmed or Narayanasamy, but announced that no one ‘with records’ would be nominated.

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