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Gujarat Elections 2017: With 2 Days Left for Nomination Deadline, Congress Keeps Guessing Game Going

Once again, and as is its wont, the Congress is yet to declare a single candidate for the Gujarat Assembly elections next month. Nominations for the first round of polling will end on Tuesday.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:November 19, 2017, 12:42 PM IST
Gujarat Elections 2017: With 2 Days Left for Nomination Deadline, Congress Keeps Guessing Game Going
Rahul Gandhi has nominated a new steering committee to oversee nomination of members of the new Congress Working Committe.(File photo: Getty Images)

New Delhi: In power or in opposition, old habits die hard. Especially if you are a party with 125 years of history, of which a good seven decades have been spent in the Treasury Benches.

Once again, and as is its wont, the Congress is yet to declare a single candidate for the Gujarat Assembly elections next month. Nominations for the first round of polling will end on Tuesday.

Even when it is down and out, the Grand Old Party continues to maintain necessary secrecy and a protracted crawl to the finishing line. This, by its own standards, is neither the new first nor the new normal.

There have been occasions when the All Indian Congress Committee (AICC) has chosen the darkest of hours well past midnight to release its list of candidates. Cold winter nights or sickly-sticky monsoon evenings, reporters would come prepared to beat all that and file a preliminary report before papers went to press.

Administrative staff at AICC headquarters during the elections season has always been in high demand, both for journalists and ticket seekers. Scribes sought out information on who was in and who was out, while aspirants sniffed around for vital clues to out-do the competition.

Today, when political parties send regular updates on social networking sites, all this may sound ancient. Like the stories from the warrens and watering-holes of the famed Fleet Streets. In the Congress party, till around five years ago, this was business as usual.

Others who were in great demand during election season were state in-charge and Pradesh Congress Committee Presidents. Candidates camping in Delhi would chase them for a last-minute audience to bolster their case. In 2002 Punjab Assembly elections, an aspirant worked overtime to ensure that his seat was not allocated to the CPI, an alliance partner. Capt. Amarinder Singh and Motilal Vora had to play hide and seek for a good one week to evade the determined Congressman who wanted the seat for himself.

The same year, the list of candidates for Uttarakhand Assembly elections was delayed by a good 48 hours. It so transpired that the state Congress chief went incommunicado on learning that half a dozen candidates close to his adversary were being accommodated by the party.​

The Congress went on to win the first elections in the hill state carved out of Uttar Pradesh. It is another matter that the said leader had to pay a heavy price for his insolence towards the party high command. His claim to the CM’s chair was overruled and octogenarian ND Tiwari was brought back from retirement and anointed Chief Minister.

Dragging ticket distribution to the fag-end is both deliberate and tactical. Like a skill developed after years of practice. The idea is to engage potential candidates till the very end leaving them little or no time to contest as a rebel against the official nominee. Or seek ticket from the opponent.

There have been instances when B-Form — issued by the party for the purpose of symbol allocation — is surreptitiously given to the chosen one, while the others slug it out till the very end.

By the time others still camping in Delhi realise what happened, the official nominee sneaked out of the national capital to file the nomination papers.

The BJP, on the other hand, follows a different trajectory. The Central Election Committee meets well in advance to discuss, debate and fine-tune its list. The names are generally declared well in advance.

As far as the Gujarat election is concerned, it is not very clear whether the delay in ticket declaration is out of old habits. Perhaps there is more to it.

There remain some unsettled issues with Hardik Patel-led PAAS that both sides would like others to believe are related to Congress’ stand on quota commitment for Patidars.

The BJP says the delay is more about accommodating PAAS leaders in the Congress list. The latter is not willing to concede more than five seats. The PAAS may have been demanding more flexibility.

In the meantime, the wait for the Congress list continues.

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| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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