Triplet race: Who would be the third Congress leader to contest in the party's presidential poll?

The presidential poll in the Congress party is displaying no dearth of political twists and turns and as the deadline for filing the nomination for the party's apex role gets closer, the mood within the party gets more furore with the whole country watching who would be final contenders for the race. The mystery will be solved in the evening hours of Saturday - September 30 when the process of filing the nomination ends. 

In what would become the first election for the post of party's president in decades as the incumbent Sonia Gandhi was elected to office unopposed all these years, the present generation of the party and in the country are gearing up to witness how the election will get unfold and how the Gandhis would build the equation of exercising the power from behind the screens. 

As familiar as its internal crisis, the presidential poll in Congress has been making national headlines as the nation is high on heels about who would succeed Sonia Gandhi. In the wake of fresh political prospects and turmoils, the developments around the election are gaining more attention, akin to Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra. When the path for the poll was laid down, it was thought that a loyalist of Gandhis would be elected to the post unopposed.

It was apparent when Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot came as the front runner with complete backing from the Gandhis. However, the path later got widened into a race when Congress MP Shashi Tharoor announced that he would run for the top job. The race was fixed between Gehlot and Tharoor until it was changed on Thursday when Gehlot said he has decided not to contest for the president post owing to the political crisis that sparked in Rajasthan over electing his successor as the Chief Minister. 

As Gehlot is out of the race, Shashi Tharoor has got a popular contender - former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh and as both the leaders are ready for what Tharoor called a friendly contest among colleagues, they will be filing their nominations on Friday and the window of filing nomination will be open from 11 am to 3 pm. However, as the clock is ticking to the deadline, the party is filled with speculations over a third contender. 

While Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh are on the track, the possibility of the third contender arose when the leaders of G-23 (group of 23) within the Congress met. When Tharoor is part of the group, it appears that it will field another candidate to make the contest a triplet race. In the evening hours of Thursday, some G23 leaders including former Union Minister Manish Tewari, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda attended the meeting that was held at the residence of senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. 

Though there has been no official confirmation from the group, the clear race will not be in sight until the closure of the nomination window. On the other hand, there have been speculations that senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, the leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and close to the Gandhis, would be the third face in the race. The reports suggest that Kharge has the mind of contesting but the final call will be taken by Sonia Gandhi. 

Aligning to the possibilities of Kharge joining the race, it has been reported that he will meet Sonia Gandhi at her residence on Friday during which he will probably seek consent from her to go ahead with the race. Besides the ground for a tight race, the party is making arrangements for the polls. A tent has been installed on the lawns of the Congress party headquarters in Delhi where party leaders can file their nominations. 

Interestingly, the Congress party is gearing up to welcome a non-Gandhi chief for the first time in 22 years in the midst of the prevailing notions that the party would see a change just in the name as the ultimate power would continue to stay in the hands of Gandhis, who will function from behind. While the filing of the nominations ends on Friday - September 30, the last date for withdrawing nominations is October 8. The polling for Congress's president post will be held on October 17 and the result will be announced on October 19.