Rahul Gandhi's "primaries" experiment for candidate selection is being hailed as a plan to "end the high command culture" that could pave the way for direct election of even the all-powerful Congress Working Committee.
Party general secretary Ajay Maken said that in the later stages of opening up of the system, even the office bearers of CWC could be elected through direct feedback from party workers and so could be the fate of chief ministers in states.
The last contest witnessed for CWC, the highest policy making body was in 1997 at the AICC plenary at Kolkata when the late Sitaram Kesri was the party chief.
Giving broad indications that Rahul plans to shake up the existing system of appointment of office bearers as well as the nomination of candidates for all elections, Maken said, "The idea is to ensure that a common worker has a say in decision making even at the top levels."
He also reminded that 79.4 lakh members were enrolled in Youth Congress and 504000 office bearers were elected as per transparency plan of Gandhi.
To a question as to whether even chief ministers could be elected through feedback from office bearers, Maken said, "That is what he eventually plans to do but all of this will be after Lok Sabha elections."
In an indication of party leaders falling in line to Rahul's "primaries" plan was evident when in a party meeting all seven Congress MPs from Delhi expressed their willingness to undergo the process, that could begin a race among Congress MPs to offer their Parliamentary seats the new experiment.
A senior party functionary speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the exercise would be completed by February 15 or 16 and candidates will be announced for these seats, whose number could vary between 15 and 17.
Sources said that in a meeting held at the residence of senior party Ghulam Nabi Azad, all seven Delhi MPs including Union ministers Kapil Sibal and Krishna Tirath said they wanted candidate selection in their seats through primaries.
Sibal and Tirath had earlier expressed reservations to the party leadership over the manner in which only their seats Chandni Chowk and North West Delhi were picked up for holding primaries out of the total seven Parliamentary seats.
After this, the two seats were removed from the list of 16 such Lok Sabha seats across the country. Immediately AICC general secretaries Gurudas Kamat and Maken offered their seats of North West Mumbai and New Delhi in the list of primaries.
Rahul is in favour of bringing fundamental changes in candidate selection process so that they are not handpicked by few leaders.
Addressing the AICC meeting here on January 17, he had said, "In 15 constituencies in the Lok Sabha polls, we will finalise candidates by asking party workers. They will directly elect candidates."
The move to select candidates by seeking direct feedback from party workers on the line of US primaries was hailed by party as part of Rahul's plans to "end the high command culture" by opening up system and empowering the grass-roots.
Rahul has been saying in internal party meetings that if the experiment works, it would be expanded everywhere in times to come.
The exercise is being carried out on the pattern of elections earlier held in NSUI and Youth Congress and a non- profit and independent organisation Foundation for Advanced Management of Elections (FAME) headed by ex-Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyndoh and former advisor to Election Commission K J Rao will be monitoring the process.
"Rahul Gandhi wants to bring an end to the high command culture by vesting the two big powers of appointing office bearers candidate selection among party workers... It will eventually make the system more transparent," Maken said.
He at the same time said that this does not mean that the top decision making bodies in the party will lose relevance or will cease to exist.
Maken had yesterday given broad indications that notwithstanding the initial hiccups, the process will continue as it is part of the long-terms plans to bring sweeping changes in ticket distribution and other processes in the party.
He said that the Congress Vice President thinks that while in government functioning transparency is being brought through steps like RTI and punitive measures like Lokpal and other anti graft bills, as far political system is concerned, it cannot be made transparent till Congress workers do not have a say in electing their candidates.
Maken said that the details of the voters and the candidates will be put on the party website and the idea is to do it in a professional manner.
"All seven Delhi Congress MPs volunteer to hold primaries in their constituency. Very soon the number and constituencies would be announced!," he said on Twitter.
Later talking to reporters he said that if it was first done in Delhi, which is the national capital, it will be easier for the party to propagate the idea across the country.