The Congress today launched the process of electing a new chief with two names almost certain in the contest – Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor. Now two more candidates have emerged for the party’s first election in over 20 years without any Gandhi as the default choice for president.
Former Union Minister Manish Tewari and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath could also take their shot. Kamal Nath is “being considered and may contest”, sources said. He was earlier said to be reluctant and more inclined towards focusing on his home state Madhya Pradesh.
Yesterday, Digvijaya Singh, in an interview to NDTV, suggested that he could run for Congress president.
When he was asked whether he would prefer Ashok Gehlot or Shashi Tharoor in the leadership role, Digvijaya Singh said: “Let’s see. I am not ruling myself out also, why do you want to keep me out?”
He added: “Everyone has the right to contest…You will know the answer on the evening of 30th.” Those interested in running for Congress chief can apply till September 30.
The elections, if needed, will be held on October 17 and the results will be announced two days later.
The last time the Congress saw any non-Gandhi in the race for party chief is in 2000, when Jitendra Prasada challenged Sonia Gandhi.
Shashi Tharoor was the first to declare his intention to contest to Sonia Gandhi, who took over as interim chief when her son Rahul Gandhi quit in 2019 over serial election defeats.
Ashok Gehlot is believed to be the Gandhis’ top choice for Congress president; he is likely to file his nomination papers on Monday after resisting it for weeks. He was reportedly not on board with giving up the post of Rajasthan Chief Minister and had suggested that he could handle both roles.
Rahul Gandhi, however, strongly indicated today that Mr Gehlot cannot have both posts if he wins. “We have made a commitment in Udaipur, I expect that the commitment will be maintained,” the Congress leader told reporters in Kerala on the “one person, one post” rule.