As Congress looks for revival, ahead of upcoming state polls and the highly crucial 2024 national elections, the grand old party on Monday is holding elections for the post of the president. It’s a battle of the veterans where Mallikarjun Kharge is facing Shashi Tharoor after all the high drama – in the last few weeks – of other leaders like Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh dropping out of the race. Ashok Gehlot’s exit followed a spell of infighting, which drew wide criticism. With the results set to be announced on Wednesday, the next chief will have to put in place a strong strategy for a party that has faced multiple debacles since 2014.

Here are ten points on the Congress presidential elections:

1. In the nearly 130-year long history of the grand old party, which also fought for India’s freedom, has elected less than 40 presidents since independence. Mallikarjun Kharge, if elected, would be the second Dalit leader in 50 years after Jagjivan Ram to be at the helm.

2. More than 9,000 delegates across the country are set to cast their votes in a secret ballot.

3. In 2000, Sonia Gandhi won the elections as she secured 7,448 of 7,700 votes while her contender Jitendra Prasada managed to get just 94.

4. This is also the first time in more than two decades that the party would not get a Gandhi family member as its chief. While Sonia has held the post temporarily, Rahul Gandhi had dismissed the speculation that he would contest the polls.

5. Both the contenders have decades of experience behind them. While Tharoor is known for shining out in his career as a diplomat, Kharge, 80, has been the opposition’s voice in Rajya Sabha most recently in his nearly five decade long career.

6. “Between 10am to 4pm tomorrow, delegates from all states will vote at their respective polling stations with a ‘tick’ mark for the candidate they support. Arrangements have been made for smooth polling,” Madhusudan Mistry, Central Election Authority chairman of the Congress, told news agency ANI on Sunday. Once the polling is over, the ballot boxes will be collected and sent to the Delhi headquarters of the Congress, Mistry said.

7. For those who were curious, Jairam Ramesh on Sunday clarified that Rahul Gandhi would be casting his vote even as he leads the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The mass contact programme has been pitched as the party’s attempt to revive its fortunes.

8. In the run up to polls, the party has been mired in many controversies, including the one sparked by Shashi Tharoor’s “not a level-playing field” remark. He spoke about many Congress delegates openly supporting Kharge.

9. There have been claims that Kharge was believed to be the preferred choice for the Gandhis. On Sunday, he spoke yet again about this. “The Gandhis have done good for this country, and their advice will benefit the party, so I will definitely seek their advice and support. There is no shame in it. If something benefits from your (media) advice, I will take it as well. They have worked for this party and taking their advice is my duty,” he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

10. Meanwhile, Tharoor – whose campaign hashtag is #Tharoorfortomorrow – has been saying he would beat conventions to bring reforms. He was also one of the G-23 letter writers to Sonia Gandhi who sought sweeping reforms. But not all those who belonged to the rebel group are with him in this contest.

(With inputs from PTI, ANI)


By Shadab

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