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King Cong kaun? Party prez polls could see Rahul Gandhi vs Shashi Tharoor contest

Congress presidential polls could see a contest between former party chief Rahul Gandhi and senior leader and MP Shashi Tharoor. The filing of nominations for the post of the president begins in three days.

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King Cong kaun? Party prez polls could see Rahul Gandhi vs Shashi Tharoor contest
Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor are in the race for Congress president (Photo: India Today)

In Short

  • Shashi Tharoor has received Sonia Gandhi's nod to contest the Congress president polls, sources said
  • Congress states unit, meanwhile, are passing resolutions demanding Rahul Gandhi as party chief
  • Congress president polls could see Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor going head-to-head for the top post

By Nandini Singh: As Rahul Gandhi made a splash while participating in a snake boat race event in Kerala amid his Bharat Jodo Yatra, things were heating up within Congress ahead of the party's presidential polls. As many as seven state units have passed resolutions to bring back the Wayanad MP as the party chief.

Even as the chorus grew louder for Rahul Gandhi to take over the reins of the Congress, senior leader and MP Shashi Tharoor received Sonia Gandhi's 'okay' to run for Congress chief on Monday.

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Meanwhile, the Congress' top brass, busy with the Bharat Jodo Yatra, has reportedly zeroed in on Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot as its nominee. But Gehlot, who had been pressing for Rahul Gandhi's return, is likely to win support among those batting for the status quo.

Here are the top developments.

1) Shashi Tharoor may run for the Congress presidential post after interim party chief Sonia Gandhi told Tharoor that anyone is free to contest the party polls and elections will be held according to the electoral process, sources told India Today.

2) However, the party workers are rallying behind Rahul Gandhi, who also has the backing of several state Congress units. Bharat Jodo Yatra has brought the spotlight back on Rahul Gandhi, who is walking from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Though the Gandhi scion has maintained that he is just participating in Bharat Jodo Yatra, the posters, banners, and slogans tell a different tale, that, for many, he is the face of the Yatra.

"The party is going through a crucial time. The only one name on which the entire party has a unanimous view—a sort of consensus candidate—is Rahul Gandhi. If anyone else contests, there will be a bitter election. G23 will field its candidate, and the BJP as well as other opposition parties will get a chance to target Congress. We are hopeful that Rahul Gandhi will reconsider," a Congress Working Committee member told India Today.

3) A total of eight units, including Puducherry, have now passed resolutions seeking Rahul Gandhi at the helm of Congress affairs. According to sources, Congress state units in Telangana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab are also discussing passing similar resolutions. The party sources added that on Tuesday, in Ranchi, a resolution to make Rahul Gandhi president will also be passed on behalf of the Jharkhand Congress.

State units had passed a similar resolution when Rahul Gandhi was elevated as Congress president in 2017.

4) Meanwhile, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will file his nomination for the Congress’s presidential election between September 26 and September 28 during Navratri, sources told India Today TV. Gehlot, a staunch Gandhi loyalist, was pressing for Rahul Gandhi's return as party chief until recently. He is likely to get support among those who have been demanding a status quo within the party.

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READ | Rajasthan Congress passes resolution to appoint Rahul Gandhi as party president

5) Amid all this, Congress leader and general secretary-in-charge of party's communications, Jairam Ramesh, said, "Anybody who wants to contest is free and welcome to do so. This has been the consistent position of the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi. This is an open, democratic, and transparent process. Nobody needs anybody's nod to contest."

6) The filing of nominations for the post of president begins in three days (September 24). The elections are being held amid a slew of resignations, with senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad being the latest to snap ties with the grand old party, blaming the leadership and lack of reforms.

READ | Gave my blood to Congress, says Ghulam Nabi Azad as he holds mega rally in Jammu

7) Sonia Gandhi, who handed charge to son Rahul Gandhi in 2017, has been interim Congress chief since he quit the post in 2019. On Monday, senior leaders -- JP Agarwal, Avinash Pande, Deepender Hooda, and Shashi Tharoor -- met her at her residence ahead of the party polls.

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8) Facing unprecedented internal tussles, the Congress had announced that it would hold a poll to elect the party’s next president on October 17. The result will be declared two days later, on October 19. However, after the filing of nominations, if there is a single candidate, then the Congress will get its next president by October 2.

READ | What is a fair Congress president poll that some party leaders are demanding?

9) Rahul Gandhi had resigned as the Congress president in 2019, taking responsibility for the party’s second consecutive defeat in the 2019 parliamentary elections. The Wayanad MP has so far held the card close to his chest with regards to the party's top post.

The only hint the Gandhi scion dropped was in Kanyakumari, while addressing the media, he had said that if he does not file the nomination, then he should be asked why he was against taking the leadership.

10) The last non-Gandhi Congress president was Sitaram Kesari, from whom Sonia Gandhi took over in March 1998, around two years after the Narasimha Rao government was voted out of power at the Centre.

(With input from Supriya Bhardwaj)

READ | Shashi Tharoor to run for Congress president, gets Sonia Gandhi's nod: Sources

READ | 7 state units pass resolutions as chorus grows for Rahul Gandhi as Congress chief