The All India Congress Committee (AICC) on Wednesday, 31 August, rejected demands that electoral rolls for the upcoming party president elections be made public.
This comes after at least three Congress MPs – Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor and Krati Chidambaram – demanded transparency in electoral rolls.
The party held that the election was an "in-house procedure" and any member could get a copy from any of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) offices.
AICC General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal told reporters in Kerala, “This is an in-house procedure and it is not supposed to be published for all the public to see.”
"There is no such practice in the Congress. We will continue to follow the old practice," Venugopal added.
He further said that the party’s central election authority chairman, Madhusudan Mistry, had previously given a statement to the press in the matter.
Commenting on this, G-23 member Manish Tewari asked, “How can there be a fair and free election without a publicly available electoral roll?”
He added that the “essence of a fair and free process” will be in names and addresses of electors being published on the party’s website “in a transparent manner.”
‘A Principle That Everybody Would Agree With’: Shashi Tharoor
Hours later, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor spoke to reporters in his constituency and said, “Certainly I think it’s important that everybody should 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),” The Indian Express reported.
The former Union minister added, “Everybody should know who can nominate and who can vote. There is nothing wrong with that.”
Previously, in an article for Malayalam daily 'Mathrubhumi', the MP had said, "Allowing members of the party drawn from the AICC and PCC delegates to determine who will lead the party from these key positions, would have helped legitimise the incoming set of leaders and give them a credible mandate to lead the party."
Tharoor is also contemplating whether he should contest the election to the post of Congress president, PTI reported sources as saying.
The pair of Tharoor and Tewari was joined by fellow Lok Sabha MP Krati Chidambaram, who reportedly said, “Every election needs a well-defined and clear electoral college."
Chidambaram added, “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 Indian Express further quoted Krati, who also said, “reformists are not rebels.”
Anand Sharma's Questions at CWC Meet
Responding to Chidambaram, Manish Tewari said that he was spot on. Tewari added, “I read in the papers that Anand Sharma had articulated this widely shared concern in the CWC and he even publicly confirmed that he had raised it.”
Dissident leader Anand Sharma had reportedly raised similar questions during the CWC meeting on Sunday. Reports said that Sharma asked whether due process under the party’s constitution was followed or not.
Sharma pointed out that no PCC has received a list of delegates who will vote in the election, and that such a process violates the sanctity of the election process, the report added.
Congress Election Is a ‘Farce’: Ghulam Nabi Azad
Calls for public release of electoral rolls comes days after veteran leader Ghulam Nabi Azad resigned from the party and called the organisation’s election a “farce.” Azad argued that the electoral rolls were prepared by leaders sitting in Delhi.
Previously in his resignation letter, Azad alleged that the Congress’ situation has reached a point of no return, and that party leadership is not being taken over by propped up proxies.
Such demands are not new to the Congress, with questions regarding the fairness of the election process being raised during the party’s last election in 2000, which saw Jitendra Prasada contest against current President Sonia Gandhi.
The Prasada camp had claimed that the list of PCC delegates, who are members of the electoral college, was manipulated and rigged before and after he filed the nomination.
(With inputs from The Indian Express and PTI.)