That’s not very descriptive.

As in the primaries, conducted by the Grand Old Party.

Election primaries? Wasn’t that Rahul Gandhi’s idea?

Yes. After the rout in Delhi polls, the Congress Vice-President suggested selecting the right candidates using internal elections.

Like the primaries in the US?

Like one form of those primaries. As a pilot project, Gandhi said primaries would be conducted in 16 Lok Sabha constituencies. Voters, “a representative cross-section of party workers, leaders and other influencers... from these Lok Sabha constituencies, will decide the Congress candidate from the constituency.”

That’s definitely very democratic.

That’s what they called it too. It was supposed to make ticket distribution more transparent, enthuse party workers and discourage dynastic choices. .

So what seems to be the problem?

Everything. As noble as its intentions may have been, you would be hard-pressed to call the pilot a success. Problems began with just selecting constituencies where the pilot could be run.

Let me guess. Sitting MPs didn’t want to lose tickets.

Exactly. Delhi was made part of the project so the Congress could win some good urban PR points as a transparent party. Chandni Chowk and Delhi- North West were first selected, but dropped quickly after their incumbent MPs, telecom minister Kapil Sibal and Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath, objected.

So the Delhi pilot was cancelled?

Of course not. They picked New Delhi and Delhi-North East instead. Ajay Maken retained his ticket for the New Delhi seat, but that was because no one contested against him in the primaries. In Delhi-North East, state congress President Jai Prakash Agarwal had one challenger, but he won by a gigantic margin anyway.

That’s not so bad.

That was just the start. The trouble with deciding constituencies was said to be most acute in Maharashtra, where constituencies were changed thrice. Aurangabad, Dhule and Yavatmal were selected, but local party workers fought to keep it out. Wardha and Latur were selected instead. In UP, Varanasi was picked first but then Modi came calling. So it was dropped in favour of the less conspicuous Ambedkar Nagar

Karnataka has been fairly tense. The primary election for Bangalore North turned into a proxy battle between Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and State Congress President G Parameshwar. The former’s candidate and JD (S) migrant C Narayanaswamy eventually got the ticket.

Honestly, these just seem to be just teething troubles.

The most controversial was Mandsour, Madhya Pradesh. Not surprising since it involved Meenakshi Natarajan, close aide of Rahul Gandhi’s but a bête noir in her own right. She won the primary against allegations of vote rigging

That sounds familiar.

But where the Congress shot its pilot, and itself, in its own foot is in Vadodara. City Congress President Narendra Rawat had won the primaries. But plans changed after Narendra Modi announced recently that he would contest from Vadodara as well. Promptly, Rawat was dropped and replaced by party general secretary, two-time MP and another Gandhi fanboy Madhusudan Mistry.

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