New Delhi, Oct 19 (IANS) The message is loud and clear from 24, Akbar Road, the headquarters of the Congress party: accountability is the new mantra in this election and will be strictly enforced.
Congress chieftans in the five states going to the polls in November-December may not be able to get away with candidates of their choice this time around. For the party has decided that the state chiefs will be made "accountable" for their candidate - including their own relatives - if the person fares disastrously in the polls.
"It will not be easy for leaders to get their way with the candidates. If a leader wishes tickets for his loyalists on some seats, he is likely to be held accountable for the result," a party leader said, not wishing to be named, told IANS.
He said party vice president Rahul Gandhi had told state party leaders during his meetings with them that they will be held completelyl accountable for the candidates proposed by them.
The leader said that screening committees, which are vetting the lists of party candidates sent by state units, had been asked to take written information from state chiefs pitching for tickets about their relationship with the candidate proposed by them.
"The screening committees have been asked to take some information from the chieftains about the candidate proposed by them," he said.
An All India Congress Committee (AICC) functionary said that the leaders whose candidates fare poorly in the election could face the brunt in terms of denial of senior positions in party hierarchy.
"On the other hand, a victory of the nominee would certainly go to the credit of a leader; improved performance of the party is also likely to be viewed positively," he said.
He said the accountability norm, which is expected to be enforced strictly in this round of assembly polls, will also help the party deal with the problem of rebel candidates.
The Congress functionary said state chieftains, at times, give the go-ahead to their loyalists to contest independently if they fail to get them tickets.
"The chieftain then tells the party leadership that the rebel candidate is not listening to him and he cannot force him to withdraw. This will stop now. Once a leader has recommended names of individuals, he will also be expected to see that they do not contest as independents on being denied the party ticket," he said.
He said rebels seriously impact the prospects of the official party candidate and benefit the opposition.
"There were about 60 Congressmen who had contested as independents in the last assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh and had undermined the chances of the official nominees," the AICC leader said.
"These assembly polls are crucial for the party. We cannot afford to lose them because of our own mistakes," he said.
Party sources said that ticket aspirants for assembly polls were no longer doing "parikramas" (rounds) of senior party functionaries in the captial as they did in the past.
"The process of ticket distribution is more broadbased now. Three surveys have been done in each state to check and re-check the winnability of candidates," the leader said.
He said that accountability norm has made the state chiefs and central leaders careful about the names they propose and the move will also help curb factionalism in the state units. Gandhi had indicated his desire to enforce accountability norms in the party soon after he assumed charge as vice president in January.
Mahila Congress chief Shobha Oza said that the message from the leadership was loud and clear that performance will be rewarded.
"The message is that whoever works and performs will get recognition," she said.
Five states - Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram - will go to the polls in November-December. The elections are expected to set the tempo for the Lok Sabha elections expected to be held in April-May next year.