Congress’ Game of Thrones. It Plays Musical Chairs To Select Its New President

Congress’ Game of Thrones. It Plays Musical Chairs To Select Its New President

The Grand Old Party of India, the Indian National Congress, never ceases to amuse the political commentators of the country with its shenanigans. The party was supposed to conduct its presidential elections after an aeonic break of 24 years. The Congress wants to get rid of the tag of practising dynasty politics, and so, the Congress was looking to elect someone as party president who is not from the Gandhi family.  The Gandhi family was looking for someone who would act as their proxy with the reins of the party effectively remaining in their hands. The most suitable candidate for the post was thought to be Ashok Gehlot.


The Congress leadership had managed to coax him to agree to contest the elections, but the script went completely haywire because of the idiosyncrasies of the wily old fox, Ashok Gehlot. Ashok Gehlot agreed to the proposition with the caveat that he be allowed to continue as the CM of Rajasthan. This was not acceptable to anybody, but Ashok Gehlot was adamant to have his way. This threw a spanner into the works and brought to a grinding halt what otherwise looked like a pretty smooth process.

Ashok Gehlot did not want to move out of Rajasthan where he is comfortably ensconced in the security of his well wishers and loyalists looking forward to the prospect of one more year as the CM of Rajasthan. The main roadblock to this happy ending is Sachin Pilot who too covets the post of CM for himself, which was denied to him in 2018. In the event of Ashok Gehlot getting elected as President, he would have to vacate the post of Chief Minister keeping in tune with the one person one post policy adopted by the Congress recently during the Udaipur “chintanshivir”. In such a scenario, the most likely occupant of the CM post would be Sachin Pilot.

To save his chair, Ashok Gehlot, known to be a Gandhi loyalist, engineered a revolt within the party ranks in Rajasthan. All the MLAs loyal to him resigned to register their protest against the possible elevation and appointment of their leader’s bete noir, Sachin Pilot, as the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. They submitted their resignation to the Speaker of the Rajasthan assembly. This whole episode made Ashok Gehlot unfit for the post of President, and likewise, he withdrew his nomination for the elections that was to be held for the post.

He was widely believed to be the frontrunner in the elections to be held for the post as he had the blessings of the Gandhi family. That has been effectively ruled out for the time being. This put Sonia Gandhi in a tough spot.

Shashi Tharoor, the other contender for the post, is adored by the media for his suavve and urbane outlook but does not cut much ice within the rank and file of the party and is considered to be an elitist with a mind of his own. He would not behave as a proxy for the Gandhi troika that the first family was looking for. This led to a flurry of activity at the Congress headquarters with Sonia Gandhi in a fire-fighting mode as Rahul Gandhi was busy with his ongoing Bharat Jodo yatra in Kerala.

The Gandhi family needed a face saver. The Gandhi family, once referred to as the high command of the party, seemed to be losing control of the party. To salvage the situation, Digvijay Singh was roped in as a replacement for Ashok Gehlot, but the euphoria did not last long.

Digvijay Singh has the image of being a lose cannon and suffering from foot-in-the-mouth disease. Many of his utterances in the past show the party in poor light. Digvijay had referred to the 26/11 Mumbai attack as an RSS conspiracy. There was resistance within the party to his candidature. So, other candidates like Mukul Wasnik, Manish Tiwari and Kumari Selja were also considered, but it seems they did not fit the persona of Congress president.

Finally, Mallikarjun Kharge, a Congress veteran of many decades as well as a trusted aide of the Gandhi family was put forward as a candidate.

After exhibiting some hesitation, he finally gave his consent to the proposal and then filed his nominations thus ending the game of political musical chairs on display for the last couple of days.

With Shashi Tharoor and Mallikarjun Kharge as the two candidates, ballots will be cast and the result will be announced on October 19, 2022. With these nominations, the Congress seems to have taken the first step towards resurrection. The election for the post of president is seen as a much-needed reform to revive the Congress from its present comatose state. This was also the demand of the much-hyped G23 group, and they too seem to be satisfied with this development.

The critics, however, are still very skeptical of the whole process calling it a farce on display as they are of the firm belief that the real decision-making powers would still reside with the Gandhi family. However, the G23 members say that it would still be better than the present arrangement where Sonia Gandhi is the interim president who is aging with deteriorating health conditions. With a full-time elected president, the party workers will have someone to go to with their grievances and expect a quick hearing as well as redressal. This has been a major lament as well as demand of the party workers. That wish seems to have been fulfilled, but this is just the beginning.

Reviving Congress and then winning elections to form the government is a long-drawn battle. Mr. Modi has achieved an invincible position in Indian politics along with a teflon-coated image, and, at this juncture, beating him at the hustings seems to be a far-fetched dream for any political party. Nevertheless, India is a democracy, and it needs a credible alternative in the form of a viable opposition. With the elections for the post of president, the first step has been taken towards that goal. How effective the new president will be, and whether he will be able to revive the electoral fortunes of the Congress remains to be seen. But as they say, well begun is half done.

edited and proofread by nikita sharma

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