Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor today collected the form to run for the post of party president, making him the first leader to officially enter the contest. A prominent member of the Congress’s G-23 or group of 23 leaders, Mr Tharoor was the first to declare his intention to run for the post that has been with the Gandhis — either Sonia Gandhi or her son Rahul — for over 20 years.
Mr Tharoor, who has got her go-ahead to contest the October 17 election, has a tougher challenge from Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, a staunch Gandhi family loyalist, who is being backed by those batting for status quo and a return of Rahul Gandhi at the top post. Mr Tharoor’s collegaue from Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath, and Manish Tiwari, who, in 2020 along with Mr Tharoor had written to Sonia Gandhi calling for an organizational overhaul and blaming the party’s downward spiral on a leadership drift, are also reported to be interested too.
This will be the first election in over two decades without any Gandhi as the default choice for president.
Rahul Gandhi, who is currently leading the party’s “Bharat Jodo” yatra, has firmly turned down appeals by his party members, including Mr Gehlot, to return as president – a post he resigned after the 2019 general election debacle.
Sonia Gandhi — who was the Congress President for 19 years before she handed over the charge to Mr Gandhi — has been interim Congress chief since.
The election comes against the backdrop of exits by a number of key leaders over the last few years. The last to go was senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, whose exit was emulated by most leaders of the party’s Jammu and Kashmir unit.
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.