Bigwigs, kin form major chunk of Cong primary winners

Rahul modelled process on primaries held for US presidential elections

Bigwigs, kin form major chunk of Cong primary winners

Political heavyweights and kin of party veterans dominate the 16 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections selected by the Congress through the “primaries”—Rahul Gandhi’s much-touted efforts to open up the political system to the common man.

Styled on the American process of electing candidates for its presidential election, the Congress primaries were held in 16 constituencies on a pilot basis to allow “broader participation” of party supporters in the process of selecting candidates for the Lok Sabha election.

However, well-entrenched politicians such as Ajay Maken, J P Agarwal, Janardhan Poojary and Meenakshi Natarajan were elected by an electoral college comprising the Congress' district-level office bearers and senior leaders in the constituencies.

 Interestingly, Somen Mitra, who crossed over to the Congress from the Trinamool Congress earlier this year, and Maken, won the primaries uncontested from the Kolkata Uttar and New Delhi constituencies, respectively. In Bangalore North, C Naryanaswamy, who had recently quit the JD-S, emerged victorious in the primary by defeating state unit secretary G C Chandrashekhar.

Among the kin of party veterans elected through the primaries are Sagar Meghe, son of senior leader Datta Meghe, from Wardha, and Rajbala Ola, daughter-in-law of late Congress leader Sisram Ola, from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan.

The election of Manash Bora, son of Assam minister Akon Bora, in the primary held for the Guwahati seat led to severe heartburn among Congress leaders in the state. There were allegations of use of “muscle and money power” and pressure from the influential father in the primary, which incidentally was the first to be held.

Despite such objections, the Congress went ahead with the process, contending that if workers backed a particular candidate in the primaries, they would also do so in the elections.

In Delhi, the Congress had initially chosen Chandni  Chowk and North-West Delhi, represented by Kapil Sibal and Krishna Tirath, respectively, for primaries. However, these constituencies were changed following objections raised by the two leaders.

Tempers ran high in Mandsour in Madhya Pradesh, where sitting MP Meenakshi Natarajan won the primary by securing 706 votes. Rival Surendra Sethi got 50 votes, prompting him to level allegations of rigging. 

In Indore, former MLA Satyanarayan Patel won the primaries. Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma had likened the primaries to auctions. “With due respect to Rahul Gandhi, I do not agree with this system as I feel tickets are being auctioned,” Verma had said.

Palitana MLA Pravin Rathod won the primary in Bhavnagar, while city Congress president Narendra Rawat was victorious in Vadodara.

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