At least four senior Congress leaders have demanded that the party’s central election authority make the electoral rolls public in the interest of transparency. The calls come as questions begin to rise from within the Congress on the poll process to elect a new Congress president which is likely to see a contest for the first time in over two decades.
On Wednesday, Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari took the first shot at the poll process and said that putting up the electoral roll with the names and addresses of electors on the party website in a transparent manner is crucial to holding free and fair elections. He also took a shot at the Congress CEA which has argued against making electoral rolls public and will be made available through the Pradesh Congress Committees to those who want to file a nomination.
“Why should someone have to go to every PCC office in the country to find out who the electors are? This does not happen in a club election also with great respect… How can someone consider running if he/ she does not know who electors are? If someone has to file his/her nomination & gets it proposed by 10 Congresspersons as is requirement CEA can reject it saying they are not valid electors,” Tewari said in a series of tweets yesterday.
Tewari’s arguments soon found support in fellow MP Karti Chidambaram. “Every election needs a well-defined and clear electoral college. The process of forming the electoral college must also be clear, well-defined, and transparent. An ad hoc electoral college is no electoral college,” the Lok Sabha MP said.
Karti’s comments came on a day of reports suggesting that Shashi Tharoor may be seriously considering a bid to contest the election for Congress president. Supporting Tewari’s argument, Tharoor told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that it was important for everyone to have transparency on electoral rolls.
“If that’s what Manish has asked for, I am sure it’s a principle that everybody would agree (with). Everybody should know who can nominate and who can vote. There is nothing wrong with that,” the Lok Sabha MP said.
The comments by the three leaders came just days after another senior leader, Anand Sharma, had raised the issue during a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) where the schedule of the meeting was approved. According to The Indian Express, Sharma had argued during the meeting that there was no clarity on the approximately 9,000 PCC delegates.
The row over a lack of transparency in the Congress’ internal elections is similar to what the party faced in 2000, the last time when Congress saw an election for the post of president. At that time, the same issue of lack of transparency in the election process had become a point of discord in the run-up to the contest between Sonia Gandhi and Jitendra Prasada.
Prasada’s supporters had alleged at the time that the list of Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates, who are members of the electoral college, was rigged and manipulated before and after he filed the nomination. Much like the demands by Congress leaders this time around, it was alleged that there were bogus names in the electoral rolls, that Prasada had not been provided the addresses of delegates, and that the Congress delegates’ list had not been published.