Published: 17th October 2022
#WhatTheFAQ: Congress to get non-Gandhi President after 24 years. Who will be frontrunner in Kharge vs Tharoor face-off?
The much-awaited elections to vote for the President of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) will take place today, October 17. Here are more details on the candidates and the elections
About 9,300 Congress delegates will vote today, Monday, October 17 to elect a new party President between the two contenders in the running — Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor.
Voting will be conducted across all state and union territory offices from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm and the result will be announced on October 19. About 67 booths have been set up, according to the party's Central Election Authority (CEA), as stated in a report by PTI.
Who are the candidates in the race? Why have elections not been held for so long? Today’s FAQ will answer these questions
Who is the frontrunner in the race?
Mallikarjun Kharge, a candidate who is backed with decades of experience, the former President of Karnataka Pradesh Congress, joined Congress in 1969. He has been elected as an MLA eight times, a Lok Sabha MP two times and he is currently the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, according to reports. Recently, the Congress leader was seen raising slogans against the Union government while marching from the Parliament.
While expressing regret that none of the Gandhi family members were in the running for the party chief, he said he would implement the Udaipur Declaration that offers 50 per cent of party posts to those below 50 years of age, if elected as AICC president. He also said 50 per cent of seats in the 2024 election would be given to those below 50 years of age, according to reports. If elected, Kharge would be the second Dalit leader in over 50 years.
Who is the other candidate?
The other candidate, Shashi Tharoor, is a bestselling author, former United Nations diplomat and one of the 23 leaders who wrote to Sonia Gandhi in 2020 seeking large-scale reforms. He also served as the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs and, in fact, is currently Chair of the Parliamentary Panel on information and technology and communications.
He has, on multiple occasions, reiterated the importance of holding transparent elections and batted for the reform of the party. “... the longer the Congress waits to get its act together, the greater the risk of a steady erosion of our traditional vote bank and their gravitation towards our political competitors...Which is why I have long been an outspoken advocate for free and transparent elections within the party, including for the post of president,” the forthright former Union Minister told PTI.
How many of the party’s previous Presidents were from the Gandhi-Nehru family?
Sonia Gandhi, the longest-serving President of the party, was appointed unopposed in 1998 and since 2000, there has been no challenger to the Gandhi family for the post of President. She remained the leader of the party until 2017 when her son, Rahul Gandhi was elected, yet again, unopposed. Reports point out that the party has had 16 leaders so far after independence and five of them have been from the Gandhi family.
This is only the sixth election in the 137-year-long history of the party. The last time a presidential election with more than one candidate was conducted was in 2000 when Sonia Gandhi won against Jitin Prasada with a lead of 7448 votes, according to reports. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have headed the party for the majority of the years post independence.
What have been the hurdles in the election process so far?
During the election campaign, candidate Shashi Tharoor raised issues of “uneven” playing field. Asked to comment on the fairness of the polls, Tharoor told PTI, "I had said there is an uneven playing field but that doesn't mean that (Madhusudan) Mistryji is unfair. I think he is very fair-minded and it is feasible to get a fair result from his system. However, in the party, we see that the work done by some leaders isn't quite fair."
In fact, Tharoor along with other party leaders have time and again demanded that the list of candidates for the post of President — electoral rolls — be made public. Manish Tewari, one of the G23 leaders who wrote to Sonia Gandhi demanding a reform of the party, questioned the process to pick a new party president in the absence of a publicly available electoral roll, in a series of tweets last month.