The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong in talent-search quiz

New Delhi, June 6: The Congress does not have a Siddharth Basu in its ranks, but it has B. Janardhan Poojary as resident quiz master.

The party appears to have taken some tips from the effectiveness of quiz contests in selling anything from home products to TV channels and FM radio stations.

Senior Congress leaders are convinced quiz contests can work similar wonders for the party. Ghulam Nabi Azad and Nawal Kishore Sharma recommended Poojary’s example to other state chiefs at a party review meeting here three days ago.

Poojary, the Karnataka Congress chief, says he is an old hand at quizzing — at party levels, of course.

He started over 15 years ago when he first became the state chief. He was carrying on a tradition he had established by quizzing party workers in his home district of South Kanara.

Now, Poojary is quizzing party workers at the ongoing block-level conventions to prepare them for next year’s general election.

“It helps generate interest in the Congress, makes party workers, particularly the younger generation, put some effort to learn about party history and its leaders and adds vibrancy to party meetings,” Poojary said.

His questions obviously have nothing to do with who climbed Everest first or when Aishwarya Rai won the Miss World crown.

The Poojary quiz is strictly on the Congress — its history, milestones, leaders, records at the Centre and states, the Karnataka unit and successive governments, including the incumbent S.M. Krishna government.

For Poojary, the contests are also a way of training party leaders of the future at the grassroots. “How can you give a public speech from a Congress platform if you are not even familiar with the party that you represent'” he asks.

Worthy workers so identified not only get an opportunity to speak at block conventions, but also take home a cash prize.

According to estimates, Poojary has already distributed prize money worth Rs 1,50,000 to party workers at the 144 block conventions held so far — according to a programme chalked out by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in March.

At each block convention, Poojary asks 25 “simple questions” and each correct answer bags a prize of Rs 100. The winner among the 25 preliminary victors, who tackle “difficult questions” in the final round, takes home Rs 5,000. The runner-up gets Rs 3,500.

A total of Rs 11,000 in prize money is thus given away at each block convention.

Poojary holds out visions of a rosy future for some of the winners who, he says, may become block or district leaders and go on to become party nominees for polls.

The teaser, however, is who pays for the prize. Poojary used to, earlier. But not any longer. The prizes for the current spate of quiz contests are being billed to the party.

And Poojary has maintained smooth quizzing by ensuring full and timely mandatory contributions by workers, according to the Congress constitution.

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