A Gandhis-Proxy Or Shashi Tharoor? Congress Votes: 10 Points

Sonia Gandhi, who had taken a step back from party responsibilities, was persuaded to make a comeback as its interim chief in August 2019

Over 9,000 state Congress Committee leaders are expected to vote in the election. (PTI)

New Delhi: The Congress is voting for its first non-Gandhi chief in over 20 years as Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor face off in the party's internal election. While the Gandhis are not in the contest, Mr Kharge is seen as the 'approved' candidate.

Here's your 10-Point cheatsheet in this big story:

  1. "I have been waiting for a long time for this thing," said Sonia Gandhi, who headed the Congress for 19 years and took over as interim chief in 2019 after her son, Rahul Gandhi, quit over the party's election defeats.

  2. The Congress will have a new chief on Wednesday as it tries to revive itself after losing two national elections to the BJP under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

  3. Congress veteran Mallikarjun Kharge, 80, is widely seen to have the support of the leadership, and his rival Shashi Tharoor, 66, has complained about "bias" and "uneven playing field".

  4. Mr Kharge refused to speculate about his possible win. "Whether it is a clean sweep or not will be known on the 19th (Wednesday). How can we predict now? If I say anything now, it shows that I have got too much ego myself," Mr Kharge told NDTV.

  5. On Twitter, Mr Tharoor said he had spoken with Mr Kharge to "reaffirm my respect for him and our shared devotion to the success" of the party. "Some people play safe in order not to lose," he said. "But if you just play safe, you will definitely lose."

  6. Mr Tharoor said he looks forward to working with "friend and senior" Mr Kharge. "I believe the revival of the Congress party has begun," he said on the election.

  7. Mr Kharge has declared that he believes in "collective decision-making" and will take the "guidance" of the Gandhis. "They have done good for this country. Their advice will benefit the party... so I will definitely seek their advice and support. There is no shame in it," he has said.

  8. Mr Kharge joined the contest at the eleventh hour after a nudge from the central leadership after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot - seen initially as the front-runner -- dropped out.  

  9. Exiting the race, Mr Gehlot also apologised to Sonia Gandhi for a rebellion by MLAs loyal to him to stop his arch-rival Sachin Pilot from succeeding him as Chief Minister. Mr Gehlot wanted to keep both posts, but Rahul Gandhi made it clear that the party would stand by its "One man, one post rule".

  10. Congress has mostly been led by a member of the Gandhi family, choosing them unanimously for terms of five years, except in 1937, 1950, 1997 and 2000, when elections were held since there was more than one candidate.

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