Congress presidential election | India

Congress presidential polls may see Gehlot versus Tharoor contest as Sonia assures Gandhis’ neutrality

The post of Congress president has been with the Gandhi family since 1978. File Photos

The post of Congress president has been with the Gandhi family since 1978. File Photos

The upcoming presidential polls in the Congress party could witness a contest between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor as Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday assured Mr. Tharoor that the Gandhi family would remain ‘neutral’ in the presidential contest. 

Before his meeting with Ms. Gandhi, Mr. Tharoor had made it clear that he was all set to contest the polls by endorsing an online petition that asked potential candidates to usher in organisational reforms, and implement the decisions taken at the Udaipur Conclave.

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The meeting between the Congress chief and Mr. Tharoor, sought by Mr. Tharoor, comes three days before the party officially notifies the elections on September 22.

The Gandhi family’s neutrality also means Mr. Gehlot, a reluctant contender in the party’s presidential polls so far, may not be seen as ‘official candidate’ of the party’s establishment.

Mr. Gehlot is yet to make his position clear but he could file his nomination once the auspicious period of Navratra begins on September 26, sources claimed.

On August 23, The Hindu had reported that Ms. Gandhi had asked Mr. Gehlot to lead the party.

The Gandhi-Tharoor meeting also came on a day when the Pradesh Congress Committees (PCC) of Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir and Mumbai followed Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat in asking Rahul Gandhi to take back the reins as the next party chief. Mr. Gandhi, sources said, has completely ruled himself out of the race.

During their 40-minute meeting on Monday, Ms. Gandhi told Mr. Tharoor that competition for the party president’s post was a positive thing and would bring rich dividends. In what was her first political engagement since she returned from abroad on Friday night, the Congress chief did not dissuade the Kerala MP from throwing his hat in the ring.

“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,” Congress’ communication head Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu in response to reports that Mr. Tharoor had sought a go-ahead from Ms. Gandhi.

Lending credence to reports that he was all set the contest, Mr. Tharoor tweeted, “I welcome this petition that is being circulated by a group of young @INCIndia members, seeking constructive reforms in the Party. It has gathered over 650 signatures so far. I am happy to endorse it & to go beyond it.”

The petition to which Mr. Tharoor was referring is an initiative taken by some young party leaders urging presidential candidates to “undertake a public pledge to involve party members from Block Committees to the Congress Working Committee and implement the Udaipur Declaration in its entirety within the first 100 days of assuming office”.

The post of Congress president has been with the Gandhi family since 1978, barring short spells between 1992 to 1998, when P.V. Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri held the post. Ms. Gandhi became president in 1998 and has been at helm since then, barring her son’s two-year term.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2022 3:08:13 am |