Come October 17, the Congress will elect its new party president, in what could be a make-or-break election for the party. Holding the key to it is old Congress hand Madhusudan Mistry, who is responsible for conducting organisational elections as Chairman of the Congress Central Election Authority. He speaks to The Indian Express:
At the CWC meeting on Sunday, Anand Sharma raised some questions regarding the electoral rolls. The charge is that there is no clarity on the PCC delegates who will vote in the election for Congress president.
What do they mean by that? Those who want to see their names, they can see them at the PCC office. What is the problem? I don’t understand.
Some leaders say that elections or meetings were not held to draw up the list of delegates who will vote in the election, starting from booths and going up to the PCC level?
Did anyone ask for an election? Anyone? And we did not allow it. Please ask them. There is no point making a sweeping judgment. You ask A, B or C where an election was demanded and we have refused. It is not fair on anybody’s part. We have tried our level best to give an opportunity to each and everybody, including leaders at the district level, PCC level and so on. This was discussed with leaders of the Congress at all levels. The returning officers have been working quite hard.
So, due process was followed when it comes to preparing the electoral rolls?
Yes, of course.
What is the process?
At the booth level, they elect a president, vice-president and other office-bearers as well as one person to go to the block level. At the block level, the same process takes place. They meet and decide who will go as a delegate to elect the president at the state level and the national level. This is done in every state. To carry out such an exercise is not a small task. For the first time, the election process was not extended. We did not ask for an extension. There was no dharna outside any office. All returning officers have spent days consulting everyone at all levels. If someone wants to say it is all bogus, then I can’t help them. Ask them whether they followed this in their own state.
So you are saying all the meetings took place?
There were nearly 900 district returning officers. They were all from different states, not from the same state. And nearly a thousand people were involved in the whole exercise. Dismissing it just like that is not fair. What did they do in Uttar Pradesh (Azad was in-charge of UP) when they were in-charges? What procedure did they follow? Now that they are not there… it is kind of a convenient argument to make.
Why were the electoral rolls not published?
The electoral rolls are with the PCCs. Those who want to see it can contact the PCCs. Secondly, those who want to file a nomination… we will give the same to them. It is not for the general public. It is an organisational election, our members can have it. It is our property.
So every PCC has a list of the PCC delegates with them now?
Yes. Those who don’t have, we will provide the same to them. Yesterday we provided the list to one or two states, which complained they don’t have it. We sent it immediately. The same goes for those who come to ask whether their names are there or not. We have nothing to hide. But we can’t make it public. This has never been done. Even in the last election… it didn’t happen. That has been the procedure. Those who file the nomination, they have the electoral rolls.
For filing nomination, an aspirant candidate must get 10 PCC delegates or more to propose his or her name. How will an aspirant candidate know who the delegates are so as to get their support?
Mostly, people obtain signatures from their home state. They know who the delegates are. And if they want to get the electoral rolls, they can get the same from the PCC. If someone wants to obtain signatures from delegates of other states, you can just speak to the PCC president, get a certificate. Whoever he wants to say, that these are the people who are the delegates… you get a certificate and obtain their signatures. Even for the Parliament election, you get a certificate on whether I am a voter or not. Frankly, I don’t know what the criticism is all about.
How strong is the electoral college? Only PCC delegates can vote?
More than 9,000 PCC delegates will vote and elect the AICC president. Every state will also elect AICC delegates from among the PCC delegates. One-eighth of the number of PCC delegates from a state will be AICC delegates. The president-elect will call the AICC session after the election and there the AICC delegates will ratify the election. There may be around 1,500 AICC delegates which the states will decide. These elections are not a farce. And anybody who wants to contest in the election can contest.
Do you have any indication regarding who will contest?
I have no idea. My job is to conduct the election. And I will conduct it fairly and according to the Congress constitution. Those who are saying it is a farce… that is my answer to them.