After episodes of political twists and turns, Congress has finally found a possibility to witness a tight race for the party's presidential polls. As the process of filing nominations has come to an end on Friday, the party has got three candidates for the top job after a political game played till the last minute of the deadline for filing nominations.
As the mystery over the candidature is solved, the party gears up to elect a non-Gandhi chief for the first time in decades. The three contenders are Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, senior Congress leader and leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, and former Jharkhand Minister KN Tripathi. While Tharoor declared his run earlier, Kharge's candidature was finalized on Saturday, and Tripathi's decision to run for the top post has come as a surprise as he was not in the fray of probable contenders.
The party has taken dramatic turns to get the final candidates and the last-minute changes have turned heads. While Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was the front runner with complete backing from the Gandhis, Shashi Tharoor jumped into the race and later, former Madhya Pradesh Digvijaya Singh announced that he will contest for the top post. It sparked a possibility for a triplet race between Gehlot, Tharoor, and Digvijaya Singh.
However, on Thursday, Gehlot announced that he will not contest the party's presidential polls in the wake of a political crisis in his home state of Rajasthan. As the last date for filing the nomination was fixed as September 30, it was expected that Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh will be the final candidates in the race. Unexpectedly, Digvijaya Singh opted out of the race and Mallikarjun Kharge joined the contest.
While it was spelt that Tharoor and Kharge were the candidates, KN Tripathi came into the picture. He submitted his nomination papers on Friday to Madhusudan Mistry, the chairman of the Congress Central Election Authority, at the Congress headquarters in Delhi. Tharoor and Kharge had also filed their nomination papers and sealed a race.
On Friday, speaking about Kharge's nomination, Tharoor said, "I welcome Mallikarjun Kharge's nomination. We need as many candidates as possible for the benefit of the party." Kharge, a Congress leader from Karnataka, filed his nomination after meeting the party's chief Sonia Gandhi. In what appeared as a good league of support for Kharge, his candidature was proposed by senior party leaders Ashok Gehlot, Digvijaya Singh, AK Antony, Pramod Tiwari, Pawan Kumar Bansal, and Mukul Wasnik.
Some of the other leaders who proposed Kharge's nomination were Abhishek Singhvi, Ajay Maken, Bhupinder S Hooda, Salman Khurshid, Rajiv Shukla, and Ambika Soni. Particularly, Kharge has got support from intra-party rival groups (G-23) leaders like Anand Sharma and Manish Tewari. Supporting Kharge, Tewari said that he is one of the most experienced persons in the party and he is also a Dalit leader.
Tewari further said, "Anand Sharma and I have come in support of the candidature of Mallikarjun Kharge for the party's president's election." 80-year-old Kharge is serving as the leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha since February 2021. He also has served nine terms as an MLA and two terms as Lok Sabha MP. As he has got a ground of growing support, the political observers say he might have a good lead in the race.
Though the party has got three candidates in the race, it is not the final list as the latter would be announced only after the deadline of withdrawing the nominations, which is on October 8. The polls would be held on October 17 and the results will be announced on October 19. As of now, the party has dotted up the speculations on who would run for the apex post. Out of several names like Kamal Nath, AK Antony, Ambika Soni, Mukul Wasnik, and even Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the final names for the race are now in place.