Ashok Gehlot Gears Up to Take on Shashi Tharoor in Congressional Presidential Election
Congress is likely to witness a contest for the post of party leader after 22 long years, with Shashi Tharoor poised to do battle after meeting interim president Sonia Gandhi and Ashok Gehlot is seen as the other contender.
The polls ahead would certainly be historic, as the new president would replace Sonia Gandhi, the longest-serving party chairman at the helm since 1998, with the exception of the two years between 2017 and 2019 when Rahul Gandhi took over.
The side last saw a match for the post in November 2000. Jitendra Prasada had lost to Sonia Gandhi in 2000 and before that Sitaram Kesri had beaten Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot in 1997.
Here are key updates on Congressional presidential elections:
With Rahul Gandhi likely sticking to his earlier stance of not taking on the mantle of party chairman, it looks like the party will have its first non-Gandhi president in more than two decades. Also, with Sonia Gandhi claiming she would remain “neutral” in the polls and there would be no “official candidate”, it could turn out to be a sharper contest than the one in 2000.
Gehlot convened a meeting of Congress MLAs in Jaipur on Tuesday evening. The meeting took place ahead of his scheduled visit to Delhi on Wednesday. The meeting prior to his visit to the national capital could be his move not only to show his strength, but also to prevent the leadership from replacing him with Pilot.
While Gehlot appears to have agreed to submit his nomination for the party chief election, he remains reluctant to accept the party chief post, given that he will have to relinquish the CM post to his rival Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan.
Gehlot, experts believe, isn’t ready to give up the CM post, and even if he does, he would want a loyalist to take the top job in the state going to the polls next year.
Earlier this month, famed journalist Rasheed Kidwai told TBEN India that if Gehlot throws in his hat, it’s possible the G-23 group could draft a candidate. Speculation was rife with Tharoor calling for “free and fair” elections after the party announced the election schedule.
Tharoor, who was part of the group of 23 leaders who wrote to Gandhi in 2020 demanding organizational overhaul, also approved a petition on Monday from a group of young party members seeking “constructive reforms”.
On the other hand, the Pradesh congressional committees have passed resolutions to bring Rahul Gandhi back to the helm. However, party secretary Jairam Ramesh said on Tuesday that such measures have no binding effect.
The nomination process for the election will take place from September 24 to 30. The last date to withdraw nominations is October 8 and the election, if necessary, will be held on October 17. The results will be announced on October 19.