Shashi Tharoor, Ashok Gehlot, Rahul Gandhi: Who will head Congress?
Thiruvananthapuram MP and former Union minister, Shashi Tharoor, is set to file papers soon to contest in the upcoming Congress presidential polls. Sources close to Tharoor revealed the Congress "dissenter" might contest against Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, NDTV reported. As state Congress units continue to pass resolutions demanding Rahul Gandhi to be the next party chief, can a non-Gandhi finally head the party now?
- For months, Congress has been struggling with internal turmoil, with numerous top leaders resigning from the party.
- Veteran politician Ghulam Nabi Azad abandoned the ship last month with a critical letter detailing the breakdown of its internal structure.
- Next month, Congress will see a contest in the presidential election after a whopping 22 years, which may result in a non-Gandhi chief at the helm.
Tharoor—who met Sonia Gandhi on Monday—reportedly received a green light to contest the Congress presidential polls on October 17. He is likely to contest against Gandhi family loyalist Gehlot in a "free and fair" election. A prominent member of the G-23 group of Congress dissenters, Tharoor was the first to declare his intention to contest the post held by the Gandhis for 25 years.
According to News18, Sonia approved Tharoor's candidature because he can make "internal democracy stronger" and said that the family would be "neutral" if there was a contest. Meanwhile, Gehlot, purportedly the "chosen" Gandhi family candidate, may file his nomination on September 26. However, Tharoor's meeting with Sonia reportedly clarified that the Gandhis did not endorse a certain candidate and won't have an official nominee.
It was reported earlier that Sonia asked the Rajasthan CM, a known Gandhi loyalist, to lead Congress. Tharoor's candidature will likely represent a fair electoral process, but many doubt if it will have an impact. An anonymous Congress leader said consensus lies only with the Gandhis. Notably, sources told The Indian Express that Gehlot himself wishes for Rahul Gandhi to return as the chief.
As the election inches closer, many state Congress units are reiterating their demand to see Rahul back as the chief. The 52-year-old, currently out on the Bharat Jodo Yatra, had resigned as the president after Congress lost the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. On Monday, the Congress units of Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, and Mumbai passed resolutions to have him at the helm.
Eight state units have so far passed resolutions to make Rahul the chief, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar. Moreover, the head of Congress's central election authority, Madhusudhan Mistry, told The Indian Express, "How can we stop them (from passing resolutions)?" However, one anonymous leader said, "If the Gandhis don't want these resolutions to be passed, there will be no resolutions."
The elections for Congress president are slated to be held on October 17 even as speculations are rife of a Gandhi family member being enthroned as the chief again. Party members can file their nominations from September 24-30. The results will be declared two days after the polls on October 19. Last week, Congress made significant changes to its internal election rules as well.