Digvijaya Singh enters race for Cong president, Kharge might too if “Sonia asks”

Digvijaya Singh, who is likely to file his nomination on September 20, and Mallikarjun Kharge had emerged as frontrunners following the rebellion by Gehlot loyalists in Rajasthan Congress

Digvijaya Singh questions surgical strikes
The point is not whether Digvijaya Singh questioned the 2016 or the 2019 strike…We Indians must ponder whether his remarks necessitated such frenzied reaction | File photo

Senior party leader Digvijaya Singh is now in the race for the Congress presidential post, according to media reports. Singh, who will return to Delhi on Wednesday night, will file his nomination on September 30, they added.

Senior Congress leader M Mallikarjun Kharge too is not averse to running for the AICC president’s election if party chief Sonia Gandhi asks him to contest, sources close to the veteran leader said on Wednesday.

The names of Singh, KC Venugopal and Kharge had emerged as frontrunners after a question mark was put on Ashok Gehlot’s run for Congress chief post following the rebellion in Rajasthan Congress.

Also read: Rajasthan: Gehlot attempts to defuse crisis, calls meeting of MLAs, aides


Change of heart

Singh had earlier denied speculation of being interested in the contest. Sources close to him claim that the crisis precipitated in the aftermath of the revolt by Gehlot and his loyalists in Rajasthan made Singh reconsider his decision.

Kharge’s advantage, say his supporter, is that he has “good connect and rapport” with opposition leaders like Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury which would be an “added advantage” and “he is sharp as ever”.

“Kharge has told Sonia Gandhi that whatever the party decides, he will adhere to it,” a close associate of the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha said, adding: “Ultimately, he will do what the party (Sonia Gandhi) suggests him to do.”

Sources close to the 80-year-old Kharge, however, also said he believes only the Nehru-Gandhi family has the “enigma and charisma” and no one else has that kind of clout throughout the country.

Kharge, who has pitched for the return of Rahul Gandhi as Congress president, believes that with Lok Sabha elections just two years away, touring the country and taking the party forward is a “very humongous task”, sources said.

No clarity on Gehlot

It is unclear, as of now, whether Gehlot will still file his nomination for the election after all that has passed in the last 72 hours in Rajasthan. Party sources say the Gandhis have been livid at the open defiance of Gehlot’s loyalists and are convinced that this couldn’t have happened without the Rajasthan CM’s knowledge.

The only certainty till now is Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor who has thrown his hat in the ring. Tharoor has already collected the nomination papers and sources close to him say he has got 30 party delegates, including some MPs such as Dr Mohd Jawed from Kishanganj, to sign as his proposers against the minimum mandatory requirement of 10 proposers.

Also read: Rajasthan CM Gehlot to visit Delhi, meet Congress high command

Rahul Gandhi, who resigned as Congress president after the party suffered its second consecutive defeat in parliamentary elections in 2019, has remained firm in his decision not to contest for the post of Congress president.

Sonia Gandhi, who took over the reins of the party again as interim president, had also offered to quit in August 2020 after an open revolt by a section of leaders, referred to as G-23, but the CWC had urged her to continue.

(With Agency inputs)