- Kharge got 7,897 while Tharoor polled 1,072 votes
Mallikarjun Kharge was declared elected as Congress president, by Madhusudan Mistry of AICC, on Wednesday afternoon. While Kharge has got 7,897 votes, his rival Shashi Tharoor received 1,072 votes. Rahul Gandhi who became Congress president in 2017 resigned in 2019 after the drubbing the Congress received in the general elections held that year. Then his mother Sonia Gandhi had taken over the reins on temporary basis. Elections were held now after three years in which the Gandhi family did not contest. Officially the family was supposed to be neutral in the elections. But Kharge filed his nomination papers only after Sonia Gandhi made her decision. Shashi Tharoor commented that it was not a level playing field but said he would move on and work with his colleagues in the party to defeat the BJP.
There were celebrations in the party headquarters in Akbar Road in Delhi. There were no such festivities in the party office for two decades.
Kharge is a known loyalist of Gandhi family and his tenure is expected to maintain status quo. No surprising new initiatives are expected. One who promised a new avatar for the party, Tharoor, lost the elections. “I think the revitalization of the party happened today. Holding elections itself is a new initiative,”Shashi Tharoor said.
The Congress, party post-independence, was led most of the time by Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. First it was Nehru followed by Indira Gandhi and then Rajiv Gandhi after whom it was his wife Sonia Gandhi, who had the distinction of holding the reins for more than two decades. Nehru-daughter-son-wife-son-wife was the order. Sonia happens to be the only leader in 137 years of Congress history who presided over the party for so long.
Elections are not common in Congress. What was common is unanimous elections. For the first time elections for the president of Congress was held in 1939 in which a Gandhi-backed Pattabhi Sitarmaiah lost to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who was made to resign. Then the tussle was in 1950 between a Nehru-supported Acharya JB Kriplani and Patel-backed Purushotham Das Tandon. Tandon won to the embarrassment of Nehru. Then in 1977 after Devkanta Barua resigned after which there was a contest between Kasu Brahmananda Reddy, Siddharth Shankar Ray and Karan Singh. Reddy won. He expelled Indira Gandhi from the Congress. Twenty years later in 1997, Sitaram Kesari beat Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot. The last election was held in 2000 when Jitendra Prasada contested against Sonia Gandhi. While Kesari got 6224 votes, Sharad Pawar received 882 and Pilot got 354 votes. As Sonia got 7,400 votes, Jitendra Prasada got only 94 votes. In this context, Tharoor receiving more than a thousand votes is somewhat creditable. While Sonia Gandhi was president of the party from 1998 to 2017, Rahul Gandhi ran the party from 2017 to 2019 and then Sonia took over the reins, albeit on temporary basis, and held them from 2019 to 2022. Between themselves the mother and the son held the post for 24 years. This is history of sorts.
Rahul Gandhi was walking and talking to reporters at 1.30 pm on Wednesday at Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh as part of his walkathon, when the votes were being counted, as though the result was announced and Kharge is the president of the party. He was telling the reporters that it is the Congress President who takes the final decision about his role in the party. ‘Ask Kharge ji and Sonia ji’ he said. Half an hour after Rahul said this, the election result was announced at about 2 pm. Of course, there was never any doubt about Kharge’s win. It was a foregone conclusion.