The Congress is going to have a new president today, October 19. This will be the first time since 1998 that the Congress will have someone from outside the Gandhi family at the helm of affairs of the grand old party. Here is a list of Congress presidents since India’s Independence from British rule:
Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya (1948-49)
Pattabhi Sitaramayya was a high-profile leader of the Congress party who served on the Congress working committee when the Quit India movement started. He was known to be close to Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel, and both of these leaders supported his candidature to the post of first Congress president of independent India.
Purushottam Das Tandon (1950-51)
A seasoned politician from Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, Purushottam Das Tandon was elected the Congress president in 1950. However, his views did not align with Jawaharlal Nehru and he resigned from the post thereafter. The duration of his tenure was less than one year.
Jawaharlal Nehru (1951-54)
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, served as the Congress president for four consecutive terms between 1951 and 1954. He held the post while also being the Prime Minister of the country as his popularity was critical for the party to win polls.
U N Dheebar (1955-59)
Another close aide of Nehru, U N Dheebar left his role as the Chief Minister of Saurashtra to become the president of the Congress party. During his term as the Congress president, he also served as the head of the Planning Commission till 1959.
Indira Gandhi (1959 & 1983)
Indira Gandhi’s first stint as the president of the INC came in 1959 and lasted for less than a year. She was elected as the president at a special session of the party in Delhi. Her next stint came in 1978 and continued till 1983. In 1983, she was elected to the post again, but her stint was cut short due to her death in October 1984.
Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy (1961-64)
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, a Congress politician from Andhra Pradesh, served three terms as Congress president. He is the first Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and has also served as a Union Minster. Reddy went on to become the 6th president of India between 1977 and 1982.
K Kamaraj (1964 to 1967)
K Kamaraj served as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh between 1954 to 1964. He was an instrumental figure in the Congress party after Nehru and is responsible for elevating Lal Bahadur Shastri to the post of Prime Minister.
S. Nijalingappa (1968-1969)
S. Nijalingappa, two-time Chief Minister of Karnataka, served as the Congress president for two terms between 1968 and 1969. He played a key role in the Karnataka unification process and shaped the politics of the state thereafter.
Jagjivan Ram (1970-71)
Jagjivan Ram was a Bihari politician who founded the All India Depressed Classes League. He was a member of Jawaharlal Nehru’s first cabinet and served as the Labour Minster there.
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Shankar Dayal Sharma (1972-74)
A renowned lawyer by profession, Sharma has served as both the vice-president as well as the president of India. He has been the Chief Minister of the state of Bhopal from 1952 to 1956.
Devakanta Barua (1975-77)
Known for his infamous proclamation, “India is Indira. Indira is India”, Barua was the Congress president during the National Emergency. He is known as one of the key aides and defenders of Indira Gandhi during her tenure as the Prime Minister of India.
Rajiv Gandhi (1985-1991)
Rajiv Gandhi was elected as the Congress president in 1985 and he held that post till his death in 1991. He was the sixth PM of India who was assassinated on May 1991.
P. V. Narasimha Rao (1992-1994)
P.V Narshima Rao succeeded Rajiv Gandhi in the post of both the Prime Minster as well as the president of the Congress party. He was the first Prime Minister from the Southern States and played a key role in the economic liberalization of India in 1991.
Sitaram Kesri (1996-1998)
Kesri took over the presidentship of the Congress party after P V Narshima Rao decided to step down. It was a tumultuous time for Congress and he managed to keep the ball rolling despite it. Before becoming the President of the Indian National Congress, he has been a member of the Rajya Sabha for five times.
Sonia Gandhi (2001-2017)
Sonia Gandhi is the longest-serving Congress president. During her tenure as the party president, she led two coalition governments of the United Progressive Alliance from 2004 to 2014. She is the wife of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and had no connection with politics till 1997 when she decided to step into it.
Rahul Gandhi (2017-19)
Rahul Gandhi, the son of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandi, was elected as the Congress president. The party’s electoral performance has deteriorated drastically since falling out of power in 2014 and Gandhi tried to revive that. However, his leadership was not accepted by many leaders of the party, and as a result, he stepped down and allowed Sonia Gandhi to return to that role.
Sonia Gandhi (2019-2022)
Sonia Gandhi had to take on the mantle of Congress’ leadership after her son Rahul quit the post taking responsibility for the drubbing the party received in the 2019 Union elections. Despite ailing health, Gandhi tried to maneuver the party, but with little success. Her absences led to the crystallising of an oppositional force within the Congress, called the G-23. Her final term as Congress president saw the resignation of several senior leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal.