Perhaps the phrase ‘end of the speculation’ is nowhere as misplaced as in Congress as every moment leading to the Congress presidential election is taking unexpected twists and turns.
From being a projected duel between Shashi Tharoor and the favourite of the high command Mallikarjun Kharge, it has become a triangular contest with the K N Tripathi, former Jharkhand Minister entering the fray.
Kharge, Tharoor and Tripathi today submitted their nomination to Madhusudan Mistry, the chairman of Congress Electoral Authority. Kharge being the clear favourite submitted several sets of nominations with the proposals of even G23 leaders like Anand Sharma, Prithviraj Chavan, Manish Tewari and Bhupinder Hooda.
Shashi Tharoor also submitted his papers with five sets of nomination while Tripathi submitted only one set to Mistry.
The leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Kharge told the media, “I was encouraged by all leaders, party workers and delegates from key states to contest the elections. I thank those who were present by my side at the time of filing the nomination papers.” However, no Gandhi family member was present during the filing of nominations.
Terming Kharge ‘Bhishma Pitamaha’ of the party, Kerala MP said, “It is a friendly contest that is going to happen. We are not enemies or rivals. No disrespect to him but I will represent my ideas.” Earlier, in an interview with Indian Express, Shahsi Tharoor told that his vision was to decentralize the power in the Congress. If he wins, he will push his agenda of further democratisation where the state party unit will be much strengthened.
Tripathi’s Entry In The Race:
On the other hand, Tripathi’s entry into the race has shocked many political analysts. Whereas, some are saying that it is a strategy of the high command to show that anybody from the party can contest the election, a few others are claiming that it is Tripathi’s individual decision and Gandhi family or high command has nothing to do with it.
K N Tripathi, hardly a known face in Indian media left Air forces just to join politics. He also served as the president of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the trade organ of the National party.
Compared to the high profiles filing the nominations though Triapthi is a low-key player, his statements are not. Addressing the ethos of the democracy within the Congress he told ANI, “Our leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have said every Congress worker can contest for this top post. They have sacrificed the posts of Prime Minister and party president.”
On being asked whether it is merely a posture, the former Jharkhand Minister said, “Why don't you take me seriously? Wait till the date of withdrawal.”
Emergence of Kharge as Official Candidate?
In the last few hours, the way dices changed directions, it was impossible for any political speculator to understand Mallikarjun Kharge’s emergence. Though in the post-Gehlot scenario names of Kharge and K C Venugopal were doing the rounds, it became clear only today in the morning.
The night before was one of the busiest nights in the corridors of the 180 years old grand national party. On one hand, there was meeting of G 23 leaders excluding Tharoor and a few others to decide upon a consensual candidate at Anand Sharma’s place, on the other the news started floating about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s probable entry in fray. Sonia Gandhi went to meet her daughter and stayed there for hours, the sources said.
The moment it was decided that Gehlot would not contest the polls, senior leaders like Digvijay Singh threw his hats into the ring. However, his certain withdrawal today morning citing Kharge’s candidature was difficult to read. The presence of senior Congress leaders with Kharge during nomination along with Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with A K Antony where as sources claimed Kharge’s name had been discussed are fueling the question- Is Kharge then the much-awaited official candidate?
Earlier while meeting Tharoor when he went to seek the permission of the party president to contest the poll, Sonia Gandhi said that there would be no official candidate for the party. The certain emergence and flooding of support for Mallikarjun Kharge however are indicating something else.
‘Remote-Controlled’, ‘Proxy’ President: BJP
Leaving no stone unturned to bash at the family-driven politics of Congress, the IT department head of BJP Amit Malviya tweeted, “Mallikarjun Kharge at 80 is an inspiring choice for the Congress. He is young, energetic and just what the Congress needed to ensure its revival. He should just pick Dr Manmohan Singh's manual on 'Living by the Remote Control' and it is all sorted.”
Mallikarjun Kharge at 80 is an inspiring choice for CP. He is young, energetic and just what the Congress needed to ensure its revival. He should just pick Dr Manmohan Singh’s manual on “Living by the Remote Control” and it is all sorted…— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) September 30, 2022
Shashi Tharoor continues to hang in.
On the other, BJP National spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala said in a tweet, “After (Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok) Gehlot lost favour with Parivar (Gandhis), now 80-year-old Mallikarjun Kharge ji becomes the chosen remote controlled 'proxy' candidate, who is projected as an 'official candidate', contrast his nomination with Tharoor's lacklustre one. Isn't it clear the match is fixed for Kharge.”
He also questioned whether Kharge has resigned from the post of the leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha following the highly popularized ‘one-man-one-post’ rule of the Congress that actually provoked all the drama. According to Poonawala, Congress leadership was searching for an alibi to remove Gehlot from the post of CM and thus made him the first choice of the presidential run.
While the Congress may try to evoke the image of a democratic party, political observers say that Kharge’s election will be considered by the opposition as creation of another Manmohan Singh, who was allegedly given the post of the PM as Sonia Gandhi faced enormous criticisms for his Italian origin in 2004.