Beyond Gandhis?

THE chances of Congress electing a new president are brightening with every passing day. As it is, Rahul Gandhi who is currently undertaking a nationwide padyatra has refused to become the president of the party once again. And the current president Sonia Gandhi is grappling with health issues. So who will take over as the new Congress president? The exercise has been complicated with several state units passing the resolution that Rahul should again assume the presidency of the party.  Many see Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot as the favourite to become the new party president. He enjoys the blessings and backing of Gandhis. There are reports that the 71 year old leader has agreed to file his nomination papers next Monday for the October 17 election. Gehlot has also repeatedly been told by Sonia Gandhi to take charge but he has been reluctant to do so, instead urging Rahul to be the new chief. Alternatively, he wants to take over as working president of the Congress with Sonia Gandhi as full-time chief, while also continuing to be Rajathan chief minister where he fears ceding ground to Sachin Pilot.

New twist in the tale is the possibility that 66 year old Shashi Tharoor might also throw his hat in the ring. Tharoor who joined Congress party after failing to win the election for the Secretary General of United Nations is a strong contender. He is currently a member of the Congress rebel group also called G23 which was mainly led by Ghulam Nabi Azad before his recent exit from the party and the decision to float his own party. It remains to be seen if Tharoor is able to pull the support of enough Congress members to be elected as the new president.

But as things stand, Rahul Gandhi is not yet completely out of the race.   He could still be persuaded to become the Congress chief, considering in the absence of a Gandhi at the helm, there is every chance that far from reviving  as a viable political force, Congress could further break up. The party has already witnessed a series of resignations by senior party leaders including Azad. Their main grouse has been that under the current leadership, they don’t see any chance that Congress will fare relatively better at the hustings, let alone return to power.  They are not wrong. Under Gandhis, Congress has lost most of the elections over the past eight years. The party has proved itself singularly incapable of taking on the BJP juggernaut. That said, Congress bringing itself to elect a non-Gandhi leader is in itself a shift away from the business as usual approach. It will be interesting to see how things unfold over the next two months.

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