New Delhi: An electoral contest is taking place Monday, for the sixth time in the grand old party’s 137-year history, to appoint a Congress president. The two candidates facing off in the contest are senior leaders Shashi Tharoor and Mallikarjun Kharge. Whoever wins will become the first non-Gandhi Congress president after 24 years. Sitaram Kesri was the last Congress president who was not from the Gandhi family. He remained on the post from 1996 to 1998, before Sonia Gandhi took over. The post has remained with her ever since, barring the two years (2017-19) when Rahul Gandhi was at the helm.
On Monday, voting will take place at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi and also at over 65 polling booths across the country. An electoral college picks the party chief in a secret ballot, and over 9,000 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates form this college, according to a PTI report.
According to reports, interim party chief Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are expected to cast their vote at the AICC headquarters in Delhi. Rahul Gandhi, who is currently in Karnataka, will vote at the Bharat Jodo Yatra campsite in Sanganakallu in Ballari, party leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted, adding that around 40 other Bharat Yatris who are PCC delegates will vote along with him.
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.
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) October 16, 2022
Meanwhile, Tharoor will cast his vote at the Kerala Congress headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram, and Kharge will vote at the Karnataka Congress office in Bengaluru.
On the last day of campaigning, both Tharoor and Kharge made appeals to PCC delegates to vote for them.
Speaking in Lucknow Sunday, Tharoor requested them to their hearts while voting.
Kharge, who was in Bengaluru, said he would have no shame in taking the Gandhi family’s advice and support to run the party if he wins the election.
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Khadge, who said Sunday he is the “delegates’ candidate” in the election, is considered the favourite as he is seen to be close to the Gandhis and has the backing of many senior leaders.
During his campaign, Tharoor has said he is the candidate of change, while Kharge’s election would mean a status quo. The Kerala MP has since throwing his hat in the ring repeatedly raised issues plaguing the Congress. He even alleged an uneven playing field.
The two campaigns were evidently different in nature. While Kharge could be seen beong received by several senior leaders during his visits to states, Tharoor mostly found only young PCC delegates by his side.
Both candidates have, however, said there is no “official candidate”, and absolved the Gandhis of indulging in any bias.
According to the PTI report cited above, the voters have been asked to put a tick mark on the ballot paper against the name of their choice. Earlier, the directive was to write “1”. The instruction was changed after Tharoor’s team told the party’s top poll body it could lead to confusion.
“Putting any other symbol (other than a tick mark) or writing a number would make the vote invalid,” the report quoted the directive issued by senior leader Madhusudan Mistry’s office as saying.