Even before the process of electing the Congress president has begun, the entire exercise is mired in controversies. As the electoral college for the president’s election is not made public, senior leaders have voiced apprehensions about it being like a fixed match, and that if there is more than one candidate, the schedule could be extended or delayed on some pretext or the other. Madhusudan Mistry, the chairman of the party’s Central Election Authority, however, dismisses all such doubts.
Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline:
Some Congress leaders have expressed doubt that if there is more than one candidate at the end of the nomination process, the election schedule could be extended or delayed. Is this fear justified?
Once the Congress Working Committee has approved the programme, there is no question of extending it or delaying it. It will go according to schedule.
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Some senior leaders say that the electoral roll has not been made in a fair manner. Manish Tewari has demanded that it be made public. What is your view on this?
The electoral roll has been made and is available with the PCCs [Pradesh Congress Committees]. Anyone who wants to find out can see it at the PCCs. It will be handed over to those who file their nominations.
I don’t know what they mean by saying that the electoral roll should be made public because the public does not vote in the Congress president election. According to the party constitution, the voters for the Congress president election are elected delegates, and their names can be found in the list with the PCCs. The voter list for the Congress president election is never made public. I don’t know on what grounds Manish Tewari has raised doubts about the voter list. Now that he has said this in public, I will talk to him over phone and find out. I will not discuss this in public.
Ghulam Nabi Azad has described the election process as a futile exercise. In your opinion, will this election strengthen the party or encourage dissidence as it is quite obvious that the president this time will be a non-Gandhi?
See, as chairman of the election authority, my job is to conduct the election, not to speculate on who will or will not file nomination. I am also the returning officer for this election, so it is my job to see that the election is free and fair. As for your question whether the party will be strengthened, all I can say is that this is a process we have to conduct every five years. We used to do it earlier, too, but it used to happen unanimously. Even then the programme was approved by the Working Committee, and we used to announce it. It is only after perhaps the G-23 [group of leaders] that it is being discussed in public.
But the impression seems to be that whoever becomes the Congress president will only be a rubber stamp, with the Gandhis still wielding real power?
How can I answer that? Whoever is saying that obviously doesn’t know the reality. Even before the exercise has been completed, how can anyone say whether he or she will be a rubber stamp? This is like pre-empting the entire exercise. First you see it [the list], vote, and if you find any problem in the procedure, tell us or phone us. I will give them answers, I will not lie to them. But why are they going public?
After the election will the Congress party will emerge stronger and find solutions to its internal problems?
Only time will tell. All I can say is that the process will be fair, transparent, and everyone, whosoever it may be, has a chance. I am sure the entire exercise will be completed smoothly and as per schedule. I have no doubt about that.