Shashi Tharoor, a former Union Minister, was the first to declare his intention to run for a post that has been with the Gandhis either Sonia Gandhi or her son Rahul for much of 25 years.
Mr Tharoor met with Sonia Gandhi, who is just back from a trip abroad for a medical check-up, on Monday afternoon and got her nod to contest the October 17 election. “It’s your call. Elections will be held according to the electoral process,” Sonia Gandhi told Tharoor, according to a few media sources.
Adding to what the interim party chief said, Jairam Ramesh said, “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.”
Sonia Gandhi, who was the Congress President for 19 years and handed charge to son Rahul Gandhi in 2017 — has been interim Congress chief since he quit the post in 2019, owning responsibility for the party’s second consecutive defeat in general elections. It did not check the crisis. The party lost a series of state elections since, triggering demands for a sweeping change in leadership.
The MP from Thiruvananthapuram had earlier welcomed elections in the party and said that Rahul Gandhi’s refusal to be appointed as the Congress President was disappointing. He created quite a buzz when he declared his candidacy for the post of Congress chief, calling for a contest with several candidates.
The filing of nominations for the post of the president begins in three days. The election will take place against the backdrop of exits by a number of key leaders over the last year.
In case Rahul Gandhi does not contest, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is being seen as a front-runner according to sources. The Rajasthan Chief Minister, a staunch Gandhi family loyalist, had been pressing for Rahul Gandhi’s return as party chief until recently. He is likely to win support among those batting for status quo and a return of Rahul Gandhi at the top post.
Tharoor on Monday endorsed a petition by a group of young Congress members seeking “constructive reforms” and implementation of the Udaipur Declaration in entirety, if elected.
Rahul Gandhi resigned as the Congress president in 2019, taking responsibility for the party’s second consecutive defeat in the 2019 parliamentary elections. Facing unprecedented internal tussles, the Congress announced that it would hold a poll to elect the party’s next president on October 17. The result will be declared two days later, on October 19.