With a view to preventing infighting due to ticket distribution, the Congress has directed all its state units to expedite the process of candidate selection as well as state-wise electoral understanding for the Lok Sabha before this month which shall be then approved by the Congress Election Committee.
The recent Assembly polls, particularly in Rajasthan, saw a lot of infighting in the Congress over ticket distribution, causing embarrassment to the central leadership. Several disgruntled party leaders staged protests and over a dozen contested as independents, denting the party's showing.
In order to avoid a repeat of a similar situation, the state units have been told to expedite the procedure of candidate selection and submit the lists before the month end.
One of the major issues discussed during the recent Congress President Rahul Gandhi's meeting with general secretaries and state unit chiefs was ticket distribution.
"Ticket distribution has always been a contentious issue with all the parties. But this time it has been decided that ticket distribution will be finalized only after names recommended are approved. All state units will prepare their candidate lists before end of February," a Congress leader who did not want to be identified by name told IANS.
The leader also said that the Congress will announce most of its candidates by the end of March, allowing them sufficient time to campaign. The Lok Sabha election schedule is expected to be announced by the Election Commission in the first week of March.
"Soon after the schedule is announced, the candidate lists will be published gradually and we expect to complete the process by the end of March," said the leader.
Besides giving more powers in term of candidate selection, the state units have been asked to provide details of local issues and feedback on the central issues that are to be included in the election manifesto.
Along with the key issues of unemployment, agrarian distress, attacks on democratic institutions and "Rafale scam", suggestions from the Indian diaspora across the globe has also been taken to incorporate their views in the manifesto expected to be released in March.
The Manifesto Committee, comprising key party leaders P. Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid, Shashi Tharoor and Sam Pitroda among others, so far has held 176 consultations in 56 cities taking public feedback on the issues to be incorporated in the manifesto.
Among the major highlights of the manifesto will be Mr Gandhi's mega poll promise of "minimum income guarantee". With consultations from renowned economists that reportedly include former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, the manifesto will provide the blueprint of the scheme touted by the Congress as a "game-changer".
Involving the party's various wings including women, students and youth, the Congress has also taken the views of transgenders. An advocate of transgenders rights, Apsara Reddy was appointed the General Secretary of the Congress women wing in January.
The party has also been seeking ideas from the public through a dedicated website for the manifesto where netizens can submit their ideas and issues.
The meeting of the CWC - the Congress' highest decision making body - will be held on February 26 in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state Gujarat. The meeting, presided over by Rahul Gandhi, will also be attended by newly-appointed General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh among others.
Besides the strategies and roadmap for the election battle, the party leaders will also discuss and chalk out a draft of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the anti-BJP front of opposition parties.
Following a meeting on February 13, opposition parties decided to have a pre-poll pact and Rahul Gandhi was tasked to circulate a draft CMP among the opposition parties.
"As has been decided by all the opposition parties earlier, the major agenda in the CMP will be unemployment, agrarian crisis, attacks on democratic institutions and the abuse of central agencies to stifle the opposition and dissenting voices," said a Congress leader.