Daijiworld Media Network
New Delhi / Mangalore, Oct 6: Not long ago Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had declared that he intends to see more and more youth in politics starting with his own party. He followed it up with the initiative for galvanizing the Youth Congress with the slogan “The Indian Youth Congress is undergoing transformation” and began the process of conducting open membership drive, internal elections, and code of conduct, professional training, nationwide programme and performance management. An election commission like system was put into service for conducting statewide elections for the post of office bearers at all levels of IYC structure for Panchayat, Assembly committee, Lok Sabha Committee and state committee. Getting an entry into the various levels within the organization is like grooming them to be the future leaders within the party and into the political mainstream.
It was no doubt considered as a revolutionary and unprecedented step mainly because many felt it would sound the death knell of lobbying by powerful politicians seeking posts for their kith and kin. Revolutionary because it is suppose to provide an opportunity even to the lowliest and poorest of the Congress worker to get elected as party office bearer and eventually pave the way for his entry into the political field.
However it looks as though things have gone badly wrong defeating the very purpose of these elections. Though Rahul’s intentions were good one cannot say his ideas have fructified in the way they meant to be. This has been clearly demonstrated in the now ongoing Indian Youth Congress Assembly, Lok Sabha and state elections in Karnataka, to be held on 12th and 13th of October. Even in those states where the elections are completed there have been dissenting notes and murmurs indicating that all is not well and there are some basic flaws which nullify the entire efforts of the party to encourage youngsters to join politics. Instead of giving an opportunity for youngsters to showcase their leadership qualities, this election has caused a kind of dejection, anguish and frustration among congress workers at grass root level. Money and muscle power and the manipulative tactics of veterans and established local Congress leaders, who behave as if the constituency is their personal fiefdom, has proved to be the undoing in these internal elections.
The main grouse of these youngsters who were keen to be part of the political mainstream is that at least the earlier system gave an opportunity to rank outsiders & new aspirants without money and muscle power to get elected. For the diligent party workers the organizational post was the only opportunity to prove his ability and leadership qualities and now even that has been taken away. This is what happened with regard to elections to the Mangalore assembly elections of IYC office bearers the nominations and scrutiny of which was done in the last week of September 2011.
But to the utter dismay some of those who filed their applications found that their membership applications had disappeared as they did not come under accepted or rejected category of applications, making many wonder whether an invisible hand worked in the quiet disappearance of the applications of some young leaders. It is said that the disappearance is the result of the fecund imagination and brainwave of some of the existing office bearers within the Congress Party, It must be noted that only some applications of a few new aspirants whom these leaders foresaw as imminent threat to their own existence within the party have been thrown into the waste bin. This has happened despite the fact that IYC has appointed Foundation for Advanced Management of Elections (FAME) – an independent NGO run by ex-election commissioners to ensure that these elections are free and fair.
Though these elections are termed as democratic what was witnessed during these elections was nothing but the wickedness of some leaders, their dirty minds working overtime. These leaders gave this election-related information only to their men and asked them to give documents required for the nominations, paid the money themselves, filed the applications which they even signed them without the cognizance of the candidates. The candidates were required to handover the applications to the Lok Sabha Returning Officer (LRO) or Assembly Returning Officer (ARO) and the tear off end of the form were to be given back to the candidate as receipt of the application. However, candidates from Mangalore assembly who trusted the local leaders had handed over the details and also the applications to these leaders to be handed over to the LRO or ARO. These leaders, however, used this opportunity to indulge in dirty politics by submitting the applications of their own candidates and by quietly setting aside applications of those whom they viewed as their potential competitors. Needless to say these applications disappeared and no one knows their fate.
Jolt to Aspiring Candidates
This has been like a big shock for aspiring candidates who had spent their time, energy and resources to be the candidates for IYC elections. To become a candidate, a person has to be the elected booth committee member in booth level elections. To ensure his/her election the candidate has to bring at least 20 voters from the both to cast their votes for which the candidate has to spend money in the form of various fees and other expenses to ensure they come and vote.
Once the candidate gets elected at the booth level he has 3 votes to cast to elect office bearers for state assembly committee, Lok Sabha and state level committee and as such these elected leaders play a crucial role in electing the office bearers of these committees. The local Congress leaders manipulated this in such a way by deciding in advance within their circle who is to be elected by deciding how many votes should be given to each candidate to be elected. The unsuspecting voters who come to cast their votes are dictated terms by these Congress party leaders to vote for the candidate they decided in advance. There were no names or photographs of the candidates on the ballot papers.
There were only symbols and the voters who were unaware of the machinations of these party leaders just obliged these local political leaders without knowing their iniquitous ways. Thus, the victory of the desired candidates of these local leaders is ensured by hook or crook. By doing so they have ensured that the entire election process is nothing but a farce or a big joke.
The wicked ways of the party leaders who ensured the disappearance of applications of some candidates has been like a death blow to those aspiring candidates especially those in the age group of 33 or 34 years. Since the age limit for IYC elections is 35 years, those who are in the border age have lost a golden opportunity to get elected as the office bearers. Moreover since 20% votes ensure the victory of candidates very few voters have cast their votes. In the 8 assembly segment of Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency out of 7060 booth level office bearers only 980 have been elected which means that only 13.88% candidates have been elected. Now these 13.88% leaders will play a deciding role in electing the office bearers of assembly, Lok Sabha and state level office bearers.
The so called identity slip or barcode has also caused more confusion and chaos. Barcode is a receipt given to candidates while submitting the application form. This barcode is necessary while voting. This barcode number should be used by candidates to look for their name in the voter list of IYC website. Since the barcode does not contain the names of the applicants, searching for the names in the website has become a herculean task especially for those in the rural areas who do not have internet facility or access to internet. Most of the barcodes did not have the signature of LRO or ARO’s, as required by the rules.
Money power has come to play a huge role in these elections. For booth level election the nomination fee for voters is Rs. 100/-. For assembly it is Rs. 1500/-, for Lok Sabha committee it is Rs. 3000/- and for state level it is Rs. 7500/-. To get nominated to the booth level elections the candidate has to canvass at least 20 members and also pay their fees as an incentive to make them vote. It means that candidates who have money power alone are capable of contesting these elections. A common person who has no resources or has no muscle power cannot contest in these elections. There are a lot of youngsters who work as daily labourers earning a paltry sum as wages. For such youngsters contesting these elections by paying the huge nomination fee has remained a distant dream.
Another interesting factor revealed from this election process is that the response of the youngsters has been lukewarm largely due to the internal politics and wicked ways of local Congress party leaders. For example out of the 80 posts in the 8 assembly constituencies of Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency only 50 nominations have been filed.
Out of the ten posts available in Mangalore South there have been 11, Mangalore city north (Surathkal) 4, Mangalore (Ullal) 6, Moodbidri (2), Bantwal (11), Puttur (6) Belthangady 6, Sullia 4 nominations, an indication that the nominations are considerably less than the available posts. For the Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency there have only 8 nominations, indicating the bankruptcy of young leaders coming forward to take the responsibility.
So one can imagine out of the 2 nominations in a constituency like Moodbidri what can one expect in terms of contributions towards strengthening the party from the youth wing? One can only say these elections are not in tune with the original motto of galvanizing the youth wing to take on the leadership of the party. Far from giving a chance to voice the vision and groom future leadership it has made way for frustration and dejection at the grass root. Even NSU wing of the Congress at District or state level has failed to show its strength by doing anything remarkable in the past one year.
Internal elections to IYC are being held in all 35 state units of the Youth congress and for those who believed that these elections would provide a rare opportunity for youth to be groomed as future leaders will have to wait endlessly as it is going to be a long wait. If the Congress party is really serious about seeking fresh and youthful blood in its rank and file it has to keep its ears and eyes open to know the ground reality. It has to take corrective measures to set right the flaws and take punitive actions against those who are responsible for belittling the entire process of these elections. Or else the process which had raised the aspirations of millions of youngsters in order to create a robust and dynamic political party would become only an exercise in futility. Once these shortcomings are surmounted then it can be proudly said that Indian youth Congress is undergoing an unprecedented transformation. Otherwise the future looks bleak and muddled.