As the Congress party was busy hosting the election to pick the next president on Monday - October 17, the first statement from incumbent chief Sonia Gandhi on the poll day has turned heads amid a close watch on the developments. The Congress party is gearing up to elect a non-Gandhi chief for the first time in 24 years and the results on who is the winner of the race will be announced on Wednesday - October 19.
In the wake of the elections where senior leaders Mallikarjun Kharge (80) and Shashi Tharoor (66) are contesting for the apex post, the party has installed over 60 polling booths across the country including at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters in Delhi. While Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have stepped aside from retaining the baton, they cast their vote to elect a new leader, who will be driving the party during a bunch of assembly polls in 2023 and in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka Gandhi cast their votes at the AICC headquarters. When Sonia Gandhi arrived to cast her vote, reporters asked her about the poll for which she said, "I have been waiting (for this) for a long time." It is pertinent to note that Sonia Gandhi has been at the helm for over two decades and after winning the elections in 2000, she then got elected unopposed for the past two decades with exception of two years when Rahul Gandhi was the president.
Voting for the party's presidential polls commenced at 10 am and ended at 4 pm on Monday where the party's electoral college, consisting of over 9,000 delegates is eligible to cast vote. Several prominent leaders including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh have cast their votes at the AICC office in Delhi.
Rahul Gandhi cast his vote at the Bharat Jodo Yatra campsite in Sanganakallu in Ballari, Karnataka along with over 40 Congress delegates. The ballot boxes were sealed off and will be brought to Delhi and kept in a strong room at the headquarters. The votes will be counted on October 19 and the results will be announced on the same day. According to several reports, with the backing of senior leaders, Mallikarjun Kharge holds more advantage to win the race and earlier, Kharge said that his name was not suggested by Sonia Gandhi and dismissed the speculations of receiving support from her.
He told ANI on Monday, "It is part of our internal election. Whatever we said to each other is on a friendly note. Together we have to build the party. Tharoor telephoned me and wished me luck and I also said the same." Besides being the first presidential election in two decades, the ongoing race for the top has become the sixth such contest in the Congress party's 137-year history.