Power Games | Congress presses big guns into electoral arena

Power Games | Congress presses big guns into electoral arena

A tussle is being witnessed between the Congress central leadership and its prominent faces on this issue.

Battleground Haryana

Congress presses big guns into electoral arena

The Congress leadership has swung into action to get its prominent leaders across the country to fight the current Lok Sabha elections. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP firing all cylinders to score a hat-trick at the helm of power, prominent Congress leaders have been shying away from joining the battle against them. This is in spite of the express orders from the party leadership to fight the election.

A tussle is being witnessed between the Congress central leadership and its prominent faces on this issue. After failing to force its top two leaders of Rajasthan – Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot – to contest, the leadership has put its foot down in Haryana, a state from where the party is getting positive feedback on its prospects. The Congress central election committee has met twice, but failed to finalise candidates for Haryana.

Former state chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his son Deependra refused to contest from Rohtak, which is considered their pocket borough. They had suggested their wives as possible candidates. But the leadership has rejected their proposal and asked Deependra to fight from Rohtak. According to sources, the party has also finalised the candidature of former state president Kumari Selja from Sirsa and Varun Chaudhary from Ambala.

Varun is a sitting MLA and his father, Phool Chand Mulana, was a state Congress president. The party has also reportedly finalised Brijendra Singh’s name for the Hissar Lok Sabha seat in spite of Bhupinder Hooda’s strong opposition. With the state Congress leaders locked in a factional feud over the remaining seats, the central leadership has set up a three-member committee of K C Venugopal, Salman Khursheed and Madhusudan Mistri to bring about a rapprochement. The committee met on Sunday with leaders of different groups and is likely to finalise the names by Monday.

Battle for ballot

Baghel plans to force EC into paper voting

Former chief minister of Chhattisgarh Bhupesh Baghel plans to force the Election Commission’s hand to conduct the election in Rajnandgaon using paper ballot. Baghel is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh. According to sources, over four hundred candidates are likely to file nominations in Rajnandgaon which will make it impossible for the commission to conduct the election using the electronic voting machines.

One EVM or a balloting unit can handle 16 candidate choices. In constituencies where there are more than 16 candidates, the EC installs a parallel unit. Additional parallel units are installed depending on the number of candidates. But there is a limit on the number of EVMs the EC can place parallelly. The jury is out on this number. As per the recently-updated FAQs of the EC, the newly-upgraded EVMs can handle up to 384 candidates by placing 24 parallel units.

Bhupesh and his team believe that the EC will have no option but to conduct the election using ballot paper if there are more than 400 candidates in a constituency. A Lok Sabha constituency usually has around 1500 polling booths. Providing such a large number of EVMs will be another challenge for the EC. It will be interesting to see which way this battle for the ballot goes.

Shahid Faridi, The writer is Resident Editor, TNIE, New Delhi.
Follow him on X @Shahid_Faridi_

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