Mallikarjun Kharge is the latest to join the contest for Congress president as the likely “official” candidate backed by the party’s high command, said sources. The Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha will file his nomination for the October 17 election today as the third candidate alongside Digvijaya Singh and Shashi Tharoor, they said.
Mr Kharge’s candidature is the last-minute entry to the high voltage race for the top post as today is the last day of application for the contest. Mr Tharoor and Mr Singh too are expected to file their nomination before the 3 pm deadline.
Congress veteran KC Venugopal, a key aide of the Gandhis, last night conveyed to Mr Kharge the high command’s decision for him to join the race, sources said. Mr Kharge will resign as the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha in accordance with the party’s ‘one person one post’ norm, they said.
The same rule was applied for Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who opted out of the contest yesterday after meeting Sonia Gandhi in Delhi. Speaking to reporters, Mr Gehlot said he also apologized to Mrs Gandhi for the crisis that erupted in the state.
Ajay Maken was also considered for the contest till last night as a section of leaders insisted on a younger leader for the job, said sources.
Meanwhile, party MP Manish Tewari too was expected to join the increasingly chaotic contest, sources had said. If Mr Tewari contests, he’ll be the second leader from the “G-23” group of dissenters running for the top post after Mr Tharoor. The group will meet today to decide if they will field another candidate, said sources, adding that former Chief Ministers Bhupender Singh Hooda and Prithviraj Chauhav are the leaders who names were being considered as possible candidates.