Will Cong finally have a non-Gandhi boss?

Subhashis Mittra-WIDE ANGLE

The words Congress and crisis appear to be synonymous. Since losing power in 2014, the party has grappled with one crisis to the other, sending warning signals of its imminent demise. Yet, it remains in power in a few states and, perhaps, the only non-BJP party with a national footprint. In the politically significant state of Uttar Pradesh, the party has acquired a non-player status. 

The Congress has remained without a president after Rahul Gandhi quit the top post. After a long delay, the party has announced that it will elect a president on October 17, but Gandhi has so far said he will not run again. The Gandhi family is said to favour Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. 

Sonia Gandhi became the president of the party after Sitaram Kesri and continues to hold the post. Kesri was the last non-Congress president. For the last 22 years the Congress had a Gandhi as the president. 

For a brief period from 2017 to 2019, Rahul Gandhi became the president but resigned along with many other post holders after the crushing defeat in 2019.

There are reports that Congress MP Shashi Tharoor may also contest. The group, which wrote to Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress, in August 2020 asking for a roadmap for organisational revamp, has chosen Tharoor as its official candidate.

The dissidents were aware that the odds were stacked against them, with the official candidate expected to win, but they wanted to start a discussion about the party's problems and possible solutions.

According to sources, if Tharoor declines to run, the mantle may fall to another Lok Sabha MP, Manish Tewari. The dissidents are also willing to put themselves forward even if Rahul, who has yet to declare his candidacy for the top post he resigned after the Lok Sabha elections, runs.

Voices seeking fairness in the upcoming polls to elect the new Congress president has grown louder with party leaders Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor and Karti Chidambaram demanding that electoral rolls be made public to ensure transparency in the process. 

Tewari raised objections to the party not making public the names of electors for the party president poll, and said it must be published on the AICC website to ensure transparency. 

Tewari is among the G-23 leaders who had sought an organisational overhaul and elections at all levels, in a letter to the Congress president in August 2020. 

Tharoor, who has expressed his intent to contest the party's presidential election, agreed with Tewari, and said everybody should know who can nominate and who can vote. 

Another Congress leader and MP Karti Chidambaram supported his view, saying every election requires a well defined electoral college. "Reformists are not rebels," he remarked. 

Another senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who resigned from the party last week, has alleged that the electoral rolls are made by a "coterie running the AICC" and the election process is a "sham and farce". 

He also blamed the leadership for committing a fraud on the party. 

Not much time is left as the notification for the election will be out on September 22 and the process for filing nominations will begin from September 24. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is October 8 and election, if required, will be held on October 17.

The main question is what kind of contest will it be? Will someone have enough courage to challenge the Gandhi trio and file a nomination paper?


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