In its 112-year history, this is just the fourth time the Congress president's post is being contested. In 1939, Subhash Chandra Bose won a second term, defeating Gandhi's candidate, Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Apprehensive that Congress right-wingers would derail the freedom struggle by joining hands with the British, Netaji wanted to stick on. Gandhi took this as a personal defeat. In 1950, P.D. Tandon, a Patel loyalist, defeated Acharya Kripalani, nominee of Jawaharlal Nehru. Refusing to accept Nehru's interference in party matters—~like formation of the working committee—he quit before his term expired. Subsequently, Nehru, then prime minister, held the party chief's post as well. The third contest was when Devkant Barooah resigned following the party's first ever defeat in the 1977 general elections. K. Brahmananda Reddy defeated Siddhartha Shankar Ray. The resultant rift led to a split.
This time around, the contestants differ on the outcome of the elections. While Pawar and Pilot feel it will strengthen the party, Kesri disagrees. "This is against Congress tradition. This election has been forced, on me". Kesri is also unsure whether the party faces a repeat of 1977.