In ten points: Explaining the Congress presidential race and how the new chief is elected!

It's election day for the Congress party and historically, it's first such apex contest in decades due to which it has gained more significance and attention as the party is going to elect a non-Gandhi chief for the first time in 24 years, though it's obvious that the ultimate command will remain with the Gandhi family. For many, particularly for the young Congress cadres, it is the first time that they will witness the race and how it is being held. 

In the race to unseat incumbent party president Sonia Gandhi, senior Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge (80) and Shashi Tharoor (66) are contending to win the race and voting is underway in several places across the country. The choice of Congress to a top job will be revealed on Wednesday - October 17 when the votes are counted. The early predictions vow that Kharge holds the edge to win the race over Tharoor. In the midst of a historical election, let's take a look at the highlights of the current poll and how the party chief is elected.

  • 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. The last election was held in 2000 when Sonia Gandhi won the race by defeating Jitendra Prasada. 
  • With the backing of senior leaders, Kharge, who is the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, holds an advantage in the race and if elected, he will become the second Dalit leader to take over the Congress presidency in fifty years after Jagjivan Ram. 
  • More than 9,000 Congress delegates, who form the party's electoral college, will cast their vote, in a secret ballot, to pick Sonia Gandhi's successor. 
  • The voting is taking place at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters in Delhi and at over 65 polling booths across the country. The results will be declared on October 19. 
  •  The delegates can vote between 10 am to 4 pm on Monday and while  Congress president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi would be voting at the party's headquarters in Delhi, Rahul Gandhi will be voting at the Bharat Jodo Yatra campsite in Sanganakallu in Ballari, Karnataka along with over 40 Congress delegates. 

How the Congress elects its president?

  • According to the party's constitution, INC delegates are eligible to vote in the presidential polls. All the members of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) can be INC delegates and as per the constitution, there are six ways in which one can become a PCC member. Firstly, every Block Congress Committee elects a delegate to the PCC through a system of a secret ballot and the elected delegate becomes a member of the PCC. 
  • Other PCC members include PCC presidents (heads of the state units) who have completed a full term of 365 days and have continued exercising the party's membership, presidents of the District Congress Committees, All India Congress Committee members who reside in the state, members elected by the Congress' Legislative party in all the states, and the members who were selected by the PCC executive from special categories. 
  • All these members form an electoral college and currently, there are over 9,000 delegates in the electoral college with the right to cast the vote. They elect the president from among the nominated candidates. As per the norm, a group of ten delegates can jointly propose the name of any other delegate for the post of Congress president. 
  • Congress' election authority chairman, who is the returning officer for the election, will send the list of final candidates to every state unit of the party. The names will be sent after the end of the last date of withdrawing the nominations. If there are two candidates, the delegates will vote for their favourite contender. 
  • If there are more than two candidates, the delegates indicate their preference for at least two of the total candidates. The election will take place at the AICC headquarters in Delhi and at the headquarters of the state units in respective states. After the secret ballot voting, the sealed boxes will be brought to Delhi and kept in the strong room. The ballot papers would be mixed before the counting and the candidate who secures the highest number of votes will be declared as the Congress president.