Ticket distribution is a time for high drama; prospective candidates run the gamut from hope and frustration to despair and anger. But never before has the Congress headquarters at 24, Akbar Road witnessed such naked displays of aggression from ticket-seekers.
For the first time, TV cameras were treated to a party worker disrupting the daily press briefing and charging senior leaders with demanding heavy bribes (Rs 50 lakh per ticket). That's how the candidate from Hathras in Uttar Pradesh had clinched his seat, one party worker claimed.
Supporters of former Uttar Pradesh minister Praveen Singh Aron laid siege to the party HQ for a week, protesting against the allocation of the Bareilly ticket to Islam Sabir. 'A cartel comprising Jitendra Prasada, Salman Khursheed and Pramod Tewari, are ensuring tickets to their loyalists,' claimed Aron.
A supporter of Jagpal Singh, ticket-seeker from Hardwar, went one better. He tried to immolate himself on the lawns of the aicc headquarters and was rushed to hospital with 33 per cent burns.
Also on the injured list: Pranab Mukherjee, after irate Congressmen from Bihar protesting against the tie-up with the Rashtriya Janata Dal in the state heckled and manhandled him. And a group of mlas disenchanted with Orissa chief minister Giridhar Gomango also seized the opportunity to protest.
While denying a ticket to lottery king M.K. Subba from Tezpur in Assam because of the many cases against him, the Congress has given tickets to history-sheeters. Its nominee from Khajuraho, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, was recently cleared by the Supreme Court of murder charges, but party workers are busy campaigning against instead of for him, pointing out that the victim was an armyman. And in these Kargil-sensitive times, the publicity surrounding the case is bound to have an adverse effect.
While taking a public position against nepotism, the party has allocated tickets to relatives of senior party leaders. In one case, a former member Sonia's security staff, Kamal Kishore, was given a ticket from Uttar Pradesh.
A delegation from Punjab which had parked outside 10, Janpath last fortnight said they couldn't quite figure out why two fairly strong seats,Bhatinda and Sangrur,were given away to the cpi and cpi(m). pcc chief Amarinder Singh's recommendations weren't followed in four seats, thanks to interference from cwc members.
Nowhere is dissatisfaction as evident or open as in Delhi, where the nominees' list was delayed due to the furore over the candidature of '84 riot-tainted Congressmen Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler. While South Delhi nominee Manmohan Singh had opposed them, he couldn't prevent Tytler from getting a ticket. At the last minute, the East Delhi ticket was given to former Lt Governor H.L. Kapur, who, his detractors point out, had been removed by Rajiv Gandhi following the cholera epidemic. 'Madam,' said a party worker, had been 'misled by the people around her'.