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Cong Prez poll: It’s Kharge vs Tharoor, officially!

If elected, Mallikarjun Kharge will be the second Dalit president of the Congress after Babu Jagjivan Ram, an iconic leader from Bihar whom Indira Gandhi used to address as ‘Babuji’ out of respect.

Nikhil Vyas | New Delhi |

Former Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, a Gandhi family loyalist, on Saturday tendered his resignation as the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, a day after filing his nomination papers for the poll of Congress president, which is scheduled to take place on October 17.

His resignation from the post of Leader of Opposition is in sync with the party’s Udaipur declaration of ‘One Leader One Post’ which the Congress party adopted during its ‘Chintan Shivir.’

“I hereby tender my resignation from the post of Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha, consequent upon my filing of nomination for the post of President, All India Congress Committee,” Kharge said in his letter to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi.

The 80-year-old towering dalit leader from Karnataka has received support from nearly 30 Congress leaders including Deepender Hooda, Salman Khurshid, Ashok Gehlot, Digvijaya Singh, Manish Tewari, Prithviraj Chavan and several others. If elected, he will be the second Dalit president of the Congress after Babu Jagjivan Ram, also an iconic leader from Bihar whom Indira Gandhi used to address as ‘Babuji.’

Meanwhile, a day after filing his nomination for the party presidential poll, Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor said those who are satisfied with working of the grand old party will vote for Kharge while those seeking change will vote for him.

Tharoor said: “This isn’t a battle…Let party workers choose. That is our message. I’m saying that if you’re satisfied with the party’s working, vote for Kharge Sahab. If you want change, I’m there. But there’s no ideological problem…”

“The internal democracy that we are showing is not present in any other party. When the election was announced, I had the intention (to contest). I wrote an article, stating that the election is good for the party and mentioned its reasons,” he said.

“After that several people, ordinary workers, told me to contest the poll. I started thinking and talking to people…I just want the party to strengthen and that I become a voice of the changes within the party and show its different face to people,” Tharoor said.

When asked about the role of Gandhi family after the election of party president, Tharoor said: “Gandhi family and Congress’ DNA is the same … No (party) president is such a fool to say ‘Goodbye’ to Gandhi family. They are a huge asset to us…”

Congress Central Election Authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry informed that a total of 20 nomination forms were submitted yesterday out of which the scrutiny committee rejected four forms due to signature issues. “There is time till October 8 for withdrawal. Picture would be clearer after that. If no one withdraws, the voting process will begin,” said Mistry.

He further informed that Jharkhand Congress leader KN Tripathi’s nomination for the party presidential polls has been rejected. “KN Tripathi’s form was rejected as it did not meet the norms set; had signatures-related issues,” said the Congress Central Election Authority chairman.

Mistry added that 14 nominations were received by Mallikarjun Kharge, five by Shashi Tharoor and one by Jharkhand Congress leader KN Tripathi. He said that the candidates were in the fray of their own volition and Gandhis are neutral in this contest and are not supporting anyone.

In a tweet, Tharoor said: “Delighted to learn that, following scrutiny, Shri Kharge and I will be squaring off in the friendly contest for President of Congress. May the Party and all our colleagues benefit from this democratic process!”

The results for the party’s chief post will be declared on October 19 after the counting if the voting takes place. With the Gandhis not in the running for the top post this time around, the old party is all set to get a non-Gandhi president after over 25 years.