As expected, the Congress remained what it has been for a long while: A Gandhi family stronghold. As results of the farcical internal elections of the Congress were declared on October 19, it was seen that Gandhi loyalist Mallikarjun Kharge has swept almost all the votes. This even included many votes from the so-called Group 23.
Kharge received 7,897 of the total 9,385 votes (all loyalists), while his opponent, Shashi Tharoor, came up at a mere 1,072. In all 416 votes were declared invalid Therefore, Kharge will replace interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who has been occupying the post ever since Rahul Gandhi stepped down after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Which also means that Kharge will be the ‘puppet’ president of the party.
It is being said that the party now has a non-Gandhi as its president in two decades, but is that the name for an 80-year-old minion of the Gandhi family carrying out the family’s wishes to the T?
Kharge is openly known as the Gandhi family’s ‘unofficial official candidate’. Therefore, a large number of senior leaders backed him. These leaders include many from the so-called Group of 23, who had carried out a farcical ‘revolt’ some time back. That the Congress spine is lost forever, is now official.
Challenge? What challenge?
This move comes at a time when Rahul Gandhi is busy with his Bharat Jodo Yatra across many states. This move comes at a time when this un-anointed ‘prince’ of the party, though doing an excellent job with his yatra, has not bothered to step into either Himachal Pradesh or Gujarat, which are going to the polls, one next month, the other soon after.
Therefore, Kharge’s new designation will hardly help the tottering party pose any challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 general elections. That is the ultimate target, the ultimate prize, in case anybody has said otherwise.
Karti Chidambaram, a counting agent for Tharoor, declared after the counting process was over that Kharge had won the polls and the Kerala MP had got 1,072 votes. Of the total 9,915 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates that formed the electoral college to pick the party chief in a secret ballot, 9,385 cast their ballot at PCC offices and the AICC headquarters.
Congress central election authority chairman Mistry has expressed satisfaction with the party’s presidential polls process, saying it was “free, fair and transparent”.
The counting agents of Kharge were Pramod Tiwari, Kodikunil Suresh, Gaurav Gogoi, Syed Nasir Hussain, Kuljit Singh Bagra and Gurdeep Singh Sappal.
Karti Chidambaram, Atul Chaturvedi and Sumedh Gaikwal were among those who are counting agents of Tharoor.
Monday’s election was only for the sixth time in Congress’ 137-year-old history that elections were held for the party chief’s post. On the previous occasion, in 1998, Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasada, and held the post till December 2017, when she passed the baton to her son, Rahul Gandhi.
The fifth contest came in 2000 and this was the only time a Gandhi family member was challenged in the elections with Jitendra Prasada taking on Sonia Gandhi. Prasada suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Gandhi, who garnered over 7,400 votes. Prasada had reportedly polled a paltry 94 votes.