The Congress's fresh push for electing a new party president has been gaining steam with names of several contenders like Ashok Gehlot and Shashi Tharoor doing the rounds for the top post. However, all eyes are yet again on Rahul Gandhi, who is at present in Kerala leading the Bharat Jodo Yatra against the divisive politics of BJP government at the centre.
Congress President elections - A historic moment
The upcoming polls would be historic as the new chief would replace Sonia Gandhi, the longest-serving party president. The party last saw a contest for the post of president in November 2000 in which Jitendra Prasada lost to Sonia Gandhi.
Prior to that, Sitaram Kesri had defeated Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot in 1997.
Poll process for the Congress president will begin on September 22 with the issue of the notification, and the nomination filing will start from September 25 to 30. The election will be held on October 17, if needed and the result will be out two days later.
Who are the top contenders?
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is reportedly being favoured by top Congress leadership as a potential frontrunner for the post. On Tuesday, Gehlot told Congress MLAs that they will be asked to come to Delhi if he decides to file his nomination for the party president post. But he will first visit Kochi to persuade Rahul Gandhi, who has reportedly decided to not run for the President's post. Gehlot had earlier denied that he is a candidate and has been saying that he will try and convince Rahul Gandhi to lead the party.
Gehlot is perceived to have the backing and confidence of the Gandhis and is likely to be challenged by a G-23 member Shashi Tharoor, who has expressed his desire to contest. Tharoor had met Sonia Gandhi on Monday and expressed his intention to contest the poll. The Congress president is learnt to have conveyed to Tharoor that she would stay "neutral" in the elections.
Congress's Jairam Ramesh tweeted, "Entire party is immersed in making Bharat Jodo Yatra a success. Even so, it’s important to reiterate that any member is welcome to contest for Congress President. This is a democratic and transparent process."
Growing support for Rahul Gandhi
Tharoor's decision to contest elections has not gone down well with Congress leaders in Kerala amid a growing volley of calls for Rahul Gandhi to be elected as president.
"If he (Rahul Gandhi) is not willing to take up the position, a person acceptable to the AICC and the majority of leaders and workers should come to that post. That is the wish of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee and all of us," Congress leader Kodikunnil Suresh said. Vadakara MP Muraleedharan said the state unit of the party would vote only for those who recognise the prominence of the Nehru family.
Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) chief Sarat Pattnayak on Tuesday said the party’s state unit was in favour of Rahul Gandhi becoming the AICC president.
Other states like Haryana and Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) have also joined the chorus favouring Rahul Gandhi to take over as party chief. Around 10 PCCs have come out in support for Rahul so far. The Gandhi scion, however, is unlikely to contest or change his mind, reports state.
(With inputs from PTI)