This week, Rajasthan’s chief minister Ashok Gehlot came to light as a potential candidate for the position of Congress president in next month’s election. If approved, the Gandhi family supporter will compete with former union minister Shashi Tharoor, a prominent figure in a group of senior leaders who have questioned the Gandhis’ leadership, for the position of interim leader Sonia Gandhi, making her the first non-Gandhi leader of the opposition party in almost 25 years.
Rahul Gandhi is still Gehlot’s top option, according to sources close to the veteran politician, and the Rajasthan Congress unit on Saturday passed a resolution encouraging him to run again. Gehlot’s candidacy has not yet been officially announced, though.
Gehlot recently paid Sonia Gandhi a visit in Delhi.
The confirmation of Tharoor’s candidacy. After signing a petition seeking for party reforms, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s Lok Sabha Member of Parliament, saw Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Monday. She assured him of “fair and transparent” elections and confirmed anyone could submit nominations.
Sonia Gandhi “made it very clear that (a) genuine election will be held and anyone who wishes can contest for president,” a senior lawmaker told Hindustan Times on the condition of anonymity.
Significantly, Sonia Gandhi also said that there would be no party nominee.
According to sources who spoke to news agency ANI, Tharoor could not be reached by Hindustan Times for comment, while Gehlot “remains a faithful soldier of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.”
Election results are expected two days after the election, which is planned for October 17.
The possibility that Gehlot would possibly run, who is a devoted Gandhi supporter and has regularly protected Rahul Gandhi and the family from criticism, has complicated Tharoor’s road to the president.
This includes actions taken by members of the party.
Rahul Gandhi’s supporters are likely to back him because this week he was evasive about a potential comeback.
When pressed for a second term while conducting the Congress’ “Bharat Jodo Yatra” in Kerala, Rahul Gandhi responded, “…will become obvious when elections take place.”
On September 22, nominations for the election can be submitted.
The fact that several senior leaders have left the party in the last year, during which time the party has lost several elections despite warnings from detractors, means that the elections will be highly contested.
The most recent was Ghulam Azad, a former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir.
Meanwhile, as election day draws near, more people are calling for Rahul Gandhi to run again. At least seven Congress state units, including Rajasthan and Gujarat, which is close to holding elections, have issued resolutions to that effect over the past several days.
Sitaram Kesari was the last non-Gandhi Congress leader. After Rahul Gandhi resigned in 2019, Sonia Gandhi took charge again in March 1998.