Mallikarjun Kharge is Sonia Gandhi-Rahul Gandhi candidate for Congress president : The Tribune India

Mallikarjun Kharge is Sonia Gandhi-Rahul Gandhi candidate for Congress president

After Kesri, will be 1st non-Gandhi to lead party in 24 years

Mallikarjun Kharge is Sonia Gandhi-Rahul Gandhi candidate for Congress president

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge files his nomination papers for the post of party president at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi. PTI



Tribune News Service

Aditi Tandon

New Delhi, September 30

The first-ever election for the post of Congress president in 22 years will witness a contest between the party’s Karnataka heavyweight Mallikarjun Kharge (80) and the three-time Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor. Both filed their papers ahead of the 3 pm deadline today. Former Jharkhand Congress MLA KN Tripathi also filed his papers but is expected to withdraw by October 8, the last day for withdrawals.

A friendly contest

A friendly contest is going to happen…. Those wanting change must vote for me and those wanting status quo for him. Shashi Tharoor

1997: Kesri defeated Pawar, Rajesh Pilot | 2000: Sonia won against Prasad

With the Gandhi family loyalists as well as the pro-reform G-23 group behind him, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Kharge is all set to become the next party president and the first non-Gandhi to head the organisation in 24 years — the last being Sitaram Kesri in 1998.

Shashi Tharoor

Tharoor, who showed 60 proposer signatures as a mark of acceptance in the poll today, pledged to run despite facing pressure to withdraw in Kharge’s favour.

In fact, as soon as Kharge, a three-time MP and nine-time Karnataka MLA, entered the race after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot opted out, contender Digvijay Singh pulled back. “Kharge ji is my senior. I can’t even think of contesting against him,” Digvijay said. Gehlot hoped Tharoor would withdraw, leading to a consensus. Former Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja also urged Tharoor to back Kharge, whose nomination sets revealed his massive strength in the 9,100-strong electoral college for the party’s presidential poll. Although party president Sonia Gandhi has maintained neutrality in the poll, the list of Kharge’s proposers showed his strong footing. Party leaders were already describing the election as a “non-contest”.

Kharge’s proposers included Gandhi backers AK Antony, Ambika Soni, Ashok Gehlot, Abhishek Singhvi, Digvijay Singh, Salman Khurshid and Ajay Maken as well as G-23 leaders Mukul Wasnik, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Manish Tewari and Prithviraj Chavan.

Tharoor, however, said he was not daunted by his rival. “This election is about the youth and the future of India. I have a vision to decentralise the Congress. My nomination papers with 60 signatures represent the voice of Congress leaders from Kashmir to Kerala, Punjab to Nagaland, and across,” Tharoor, 66, said unveiling the manifesto for 9,100 Pradesh Congress Committee delegates who will vote in the October 17 election.

Even as Tharoor persisted with his bid, his G-23 colleague and MP Manish Tewari pressed for a consensus. He said it was time to close ranks and support Mallikarjun Kharge.

Asked about the party banking on an 80-year-old rather than a 66-year-old despite calls for a rejuvenation, Tewari said, “The Congress is an inter-generational party where there is respect for seniors.” Earlier Sonia had assured Tharoor there would be no official candidate but Kharge’s emergence told a different story today.

AICC sources said Kharge’s selection was strategic — he is a Gandhi loyalist and a low-profile leader who won’t rock the boat. Being a veteran Karnataka politician, his elevation could aid the party in the 2023 state elections.

After filing his papers today, Kharge recalled his first Assembly ticket in 1972 given to him by Indira Gandhi.

To quit as LoP in Rajya Sabha

Kharge is likely to quit as Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, honouring the party’s “one person, one post” rule. Former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijay Singh could succeed him in the role

#mallikarjun kharge #rahul gandhi #shashi tharoor #sonia gandhi

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