‘One family one ticket’ was pitched with renewed vigour at Congress party’s Jaipur Chintan Conclave opening day on Friday, nine years after the party made a similar pronouncement at the 2013 Congress Jaipur Declaration.
“Nepotism in the organisation's structure is a cause of great concern and there is a need to arrest this tendency firmly,” the party had observed in 2013.
On Friday, as the party’s three-day brainstorming session began in Udaipur, party general secretary Ajay Maken said it was discussed within the party that only one member from a family should be given the party ticket; the second member from the family could only be considered for it after s/he had worked in the party for at least five years.
This is not the first time that the Congress talked of tackling 'nepotism' within the party that has seen constant decline in their vote share over the past few years.
Despite putting guidelines in place, nepotism in Congress continued as party leaders pushed for kin to hold a position in the organisation, and tickets in elections.
In the 2013 Jaipur Declaration, Congress had also mentioned taking responsibility. “It is of utmost importance that when senior party leaders recommend particular candidates, they must own responsibility in case of failure,” a resolution had stated.
Rahul Gandhi, who had quit as party president taking responsibility for the party’s debacle in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, had fumed at three senior leaders—former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, accusing them of placing their sons above party leaders.
Gandhi's outburst had come during a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in May 2019.
Under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, Congress could only win 52 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, just eight more than its worst performance in 2014 with just 44 seats to its name.
Although Nath’s son Nakul, and Chidambaram’s son Karthi won their respective seats in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, in Rajasthan—Gehlot’s home state—Congress did not win a single seat.
There has been criticism within the party that senior leaders spent more time and energy furthering the interests of their kin than working for the party. In the recently concluded Uttarakhand Assembly elections, many within the party were not in favour of having Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s daughter contest for a seat, but in the end, both were fielded as Congress candidates. Rawat’s son, too, had supposedly wanted to contest for a seat.
In election after election, this had become an unspoken understanding, but even though other parties have similar practices, Congress party seemed to have woken up to the optics of how this could look to the general public.
At the Udaipur session this year, party president Sonia Gandhi urged for “huge collective efforts” for the resurgence of the party. She affirmed that it was time “when we have to keep our personal aspirations below the interests of the organisation.”
“The party has given us a lot. Time has now come to pay off the debt. There is nothing more important than this,” she said.
Her remarks came at a time when there was infighting in Rajasthan between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot camps, similar to the one unfolding in Chattisgarh, between Bhupesh Baghel and T S Singhdeo. The Congress is in power on its own only in Rajasthan and Chattisgarh now.
“I request all of you that you do keep your viewpoints openly but outside the party only one message should go and it is that of organisation's unity and strength," she said in the backdrop of the internal tussle within the party between leaders G-23 and Team Rahul, which has manifested from time to time.
Muted criticism within party circles was also about Gandhi family’s nepotism. Sources have said that there has been bewilderment as to how the ‘One Family One Ticket’ formula would work if three from Gandhi family occupy top positions within the party, and two of them are Members of Parliament.
The ‘One Family One Ticket’ formula comes with its own loopholes as most senior leaders could already by-pass this rule as their kin had been working with the party for years.
The setback would only affect the ones whose offspring are just getting ready for politics and want immediate party recognition in the form of a candidacy for Assembly or Lok Sabha election.