Finally, days ahead of the commencement of the process of electing the Congress president, the party gets ready for the race as it is all set to witness a tight contest ahead of the official transition of power. The party's presidency remained in the hands of Gandhis for several decades and had Rahul Gandhi stood his mind to skipping the race, the party would have a new president from the outer circle of the first family.
When Sonia Gandhi asked Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot earlier this year to take over the party's presidency, it appeared that the chances for a race were less likely. Neither Sonia nor Rahul Gandhi has shown interest in the top job and they have decided to keep the command through a loyalist president of the party and the Gandhis have seen a perfect fit with Gehlot. Though he is reluctant to run for the national role, he hasn't been ruled out by the party from the race.
Gehlot has backing from Sonia Gandhi but when it comes to the entire party, the Rajasthan Chief Minister is far away from enjoying complete support and solidarity. Days ahead of the start of the election process, Gehlot has welcomed his contender in the race - senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor. As both politically-experienced minds are going to clash for the apex job, the party is all set for a tight contest to replace Sonia Gandhi.
In what has become her first meeting after returning from abroad, Sonia Gandhi met with Shashi Tharoor and a few other Congress leaders on Monday during which she consented to Tharoor to run for the president. Notably, Tharoor is a part of the G23 leaders' group within the party that advocates for the change of leadership. The G23 leaders rivalled the Gandhis and the top two leaders of the group - Kabil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad had quit the party.
As the race is on, it has been reported that while Gehlot will be backed by the Gandhis, Tharoor will have support from the G23 group. If Gehlot denies running for the national role to retain his post of Chief Minister in Rajasthan, the Gandhis will field former Union Minister Mukul Wasnik or the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
Speaking about Tharoor's candidacy, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said, "Anybody who wants to contest is free and welcome to do so. This has been the consistent position of Congress President and Rahul Gandhi. This is an open, democratic, and transparent process. Nobody needs anybody's nod to contest." As the party has finally settled for a race to elect the next chief, it has warranted the polling and the election would be held on October 17.
The notification for the Presidential election will be issued on September 22 and besides Gehlot and Tharoor, there is no sight of any other leaders to be the front runners. The process of filing nominations for the election will be held from September 24 to 30 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is October 8. While the polls will be held on October 17, the results will be out on October 19.