Rahul Gandhi as Congress chief dominates Bharat Jodo Yatra as Gehlot, Tharoor camp in Delhi

The buzz in Congress is that the stage is set for Tharoor vs Gehlot in the presidential race. However, officially, all leaders have brushed it off as nothing but “rumours”.

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Rahul Gandhi
A section of Congress workers wants Rahul Gandhi to lead party as president (Photo: Supriya Bhardwaj)

As the date for filing of nomination for the Congress’s presidential poll nears, a series of hectic meetings are taking place in Delhi and its impact can be felt in Kochi, too.

While Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at her home this afternoon, party MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Dr Shashi Tharoor, landed at the party headquarters this morning to meet the Congress’s central election authority chairman, Madhusudan Mistry. Sachin Pilot joined Rahul Gandhi and the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Ernakulam, Kerala.

The buzz in Congress is that the stage is set for Tharoor vs Gehlot in the presidential race. However, officially, all leaders have brushed it off as nothing but “rumours”.
Rahul Gandhi with Shashi Tharoor

Though he has called himself just another participant in the massive outreach “padyatra” of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi is the face of Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Gehlot, at a meeting with Congress’s Rajasthan MLAs last night, hinted that ‘he will contest if Rahul Gandhi doesn’t’. He’s also reportedly said that he will try to convince Rahul Gandhi one last time when he joins the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The chief minister will land in Kochi tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, according to sources, Tharoor has started preparing for the election.

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RAHUL GANDHI - THE FACE OF CONGRESS

A poster in Ernakulam - where the Bharat Jodo Yatra began this morning - read “Rahul Gandhi People’s Prime Minister”.

People's Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi

Thousands of workers and leaders are rooting for him to be the next Congress chief, with over 10 state Congress units passing resolutions demanding that Rahul Gandhi be made the Congress president.

Top leaders from across the country have been walking beside him since September 7, and many told India Today TV that they have been requesting Rahul Gandhi to “lead the Congress as its president.”

Rahul Gandhi on Bharat Jodo Yatra poster at Ernakulam

“However, he replies just with a smile,” said Ramesh Chennithala, senior Congress leader from Kerala.

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Chennithala, who has been with the Gandhi scion since the yatra entered Kerala said, “Rahul Gandhi is not a consensus candidate. He is the only candidate who is acceptable to Congressmen across the country. Everyone knows that if he takes over the responsibility, it will mark the beginning of a new era in the country. In 2024, only he can unite all the secular forces and take on Modi and the BJP.”

Ashok Gehlot in Delhi

Congress’ chief whip in the Lok Sabha, K Suresh, told India Today TV, “One thing is clear, we all want Rahul Gandhi to take over as president of the Congress party. We will once again request him to lead the party.”

Many Congress leaders and workers attribute the “tremendous response” that Bharat Jodo Yatra is getting to Rahul Gandhi.

Shashi Tharoor in Delhi

“Look at Bharat Jodo Yatra. Lakhs are joining and that shows the popularity of Rahul Gandhi. The tremendous influence of Rahul Gandhi on the masses can be seen at this Yatra,” added Chennithala.

Congress spokesperson Shama Mohammed said, “The BJP is rattled since the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a hit. That’s why they target the Yatra and Rahul Gandhi daily.”

“The single-point focus in our organisation is to ensure that the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a success. Through this mass outreach campaign, our party will strengthen and so will our connection with people. A new Congress and a new Rahul Gandhi will emerge,” Jairam Ramesh said.

Also Read | As Congress' Bharat Jodo Yatra progresses, clamour to make Rahul Gandhi party president grows

THAROOR AND KERALA CONGRESS JUGGERNAUT

While Shashi Tharoor has begun prepping for the poll, in his own home state, Congress leaders are showing him red flags.

Ernakulam Bharat Jodo Yatra

“The last date of withdrawal of nomination is September 30. So the correct picture will only be clear on the afternoon of September 29 when the Yatra gets over in Kerala. Now there are only gossips coming. Our opinion is that all members will only support the candidate who openly supports the Nehru-Gandhi family. Can he (Shashi Tharoor) say that he supports the Nehru-Gandhi family? The only person who will get all the votes from the state is the one who openly says that he supports the Nehru-Gandhi family. Otherwise, no,” Congress MP and chairman of the campaign committee of Kerala Congress K Murlidharan told India Today TV.

ELECTION PROCESS

Nominations can be filed from September 24 to September 30. The date of scrutiny of the nomination papers is October 1, while October 8 is the last date of withdrawal of nominations.

If there is more than one candidate, then the election for the post of Congress chief will be on October 17, and on October 19 votes will be counted and results will be declared.

According to Congress sources, efforts are on to ensure that there should be a ‘consensus’ candidate. But with Tharoor meeting Sonia Gandhi and expressing his desire to contest, the race has become an interesting contest.

Sources say, there are four options - either Rahul Gandhi gets elected unanimously. Second, no one files a nomination and the matter goes to CWC. Third, a consensus candidate emerges and there’s no contest. Fourth, a contest happens and a new president is elected by way of poll.

Also Read | Rift in Karnataka Congress after senior leader excluded from Bharat Jodo Yatra committees

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