Congress to choose between Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor

For first time in 24 years, no member of the Gandhi family is a candidate for the party’s top post; voting to be held in all State units, special arrangements made for Bharat Jodo Yatra delegates

October 16, 2022 04:15 pm | Updated October 17, 2022 09:33 am IST - New Delhi

Congress workers prepare for the party’s presidential election at the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee office in New Delhi on October 16, 2022.

Congress workers prepare for the party’s presidential election at the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee office in New Delhi on October 16, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Congress is all set to witness a contest between Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor and party veteran Mallikarjun Kharge in the party’s presidential polls on Monday.

For the first time in 24 years, no member of the Gandhi family is a candidate for the party’s top post. The last contest that the party witnessed was in November 2000, when Sonia Gandhi had defeated her rival Jitendra Prasada by a huge margin.

Before that, in 1997, a triangular contest took place between Sitaram Kesri, Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot in which Kesri won.

While voting will be held at all State units headquarters, a polling booth has been set up at the party headquarters for Congress Working Committee members and special arrangements made for the delegates who are part of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Voting will start from 10 a.m. and end by 4 p.m.

“There’ve been queries on where @RahulGandhi will cast his vote tomorrow for Congress Presidential election. There should be no speculation. He will be voting at the #BharatJodoYatra campsite in Sanganakallu, Ballari along with around 40 other Bharat Yatris who are PCC delegates,” tweeted the Congress.

The counting of votes and declaration of results will take place in Delhi on October 19.

Hectic campaigns

Both Mr. Kharge and Mr. Tharoor have been engaged in hectic campaigns, crisscrossing State capitals, to appeal to 9,000-plus Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates who make up the electoral college for electing the party chief.

While Mr. Kharge is considered the firm favourite and is being labelled as the ‘establishment candidate’ because of his proximity to the Gandhi family, Mr. Tharoor has pitched himself as the candidate for change. 

Though Mr. Tharoor complained of an uneven playing field during his campaign, both candidates have maintained that the Gandhis are neutral and that there is no “official candidate”.

On Sunday, campaigning in Lucknow, the Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram stressed on “decentralisation” in the organisational structure so that “’all decisions are not taken in Delhi”.

“Someone will win this polls, while someone will lose it. Whether Kharge sahab wins it or I win, I am of the view that the Congress should emerge victorious,” Mr. Tharoor told reporters at the Uttar Pradesh Congress headquarters.

The Lok Sabha member said he was aware that “some of my colleagues are indulging in ‘netagiri’ by claiming that they know whom party chief Ms. Gandhi wants.”

“This type of ‘netagiri‘ is not confined to this State, it was in many States. Don’t you [party workers] have faith in Sonia Gandhi’s words, who has been running our party? She had categorically made it clear that you contest the polls, and we [Gandhi family] will remain neutral,” Mr. Tharoor said.

Mr. Kharge, who was in his home State of Karnataka on the day before polling, said he was “ the delegates’ candidate” but asserted that there was no shame in taking the advice of the Gandhi family.

“They [the Gandhi family] have done good for this country, their advice will benefit the party, so I will definitely seek their advice and support. There is no shame in it. If something benefits from your [media] advice, I will take it as well. They have worked for this party and taking their advice is my duty,” he said.

“I am contacting election delegates, my campaign managers are organising...I’m a candidate of delegates, senior leaders and delegates have sponsored me,” Mr. Kharge added.

Late on Sunday evening, Madhusudan Mistry, who heads the party’s Central Election Authority (CEA), issued a guideline on the voting procedure.

“The ballot paper will have the names of the two candidates. The voters are instructed to put a ✓ in the box in front of the candidate whom they wish to vote for,” Mr. Mistry said in a statement. Any other symbol or writing a number would invalidate the vote.

On Saturday, the CEA held a demo session with all Pradesh Returning Officers on the voting procedure.

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