The Congress,
or the Indian National Congress (INC), gets a new president today and for the first time in 24 years, it will not be a member of the Gandhi family. Two senior Congress leaders, Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor, contested the election held two days ago. 96% of the 9,915 eligible members of the party voted.

Counting of votes will begin at 10 am and results are expected in a few hours. 

The last time that the Congress appointed a non-Gandhi president was in 1996, when Sitaram Kesri took over as the party’s top executive. He served for two years, before being sacked. Sonia Gandhi became president and went on to become the longest serving Congress chief. She was Congress president from 1998 to 2017, when her son Rahul Gandhi took over. He quit two years later owning responsibility for the Congress’ debacle in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Sonia was back as president, doing a holding job and clear that elections must be held soon.  

The 2022 Congress president elections are critical for the
party which seeks to rejuvenate itself before the 2024 Union elections. 

Here is
everything you need to know about the Congress president elections:


Kharge has been in the Congress since 1969 and has consistently occupied
significant positions in the party. A lawyer by profession who made his way
into politics through student movements of the 1950s and 60s, Kharge is seen as
an establishment candidate who has the blessings of the Gandhi family.

A number
of senior Congress leaders, including Ashok Gehlot, the Rajasthan chief minister
who was also in the running for the Congress president post earlier, has thrown
their weight behind Mallikarjun Kharge.

Mallikarjun Kharge (right) with Rahul Gandhi (left) during the Bharat Jodo Yatra

For Kharge,
his long parliamentary experience along with his ability to coordinate with
leaders of other political parties, a key skill if the Congress has to weave
together or feature prominently in an Opposition coalition, keeps him in the

By the
standards of the Indian National Congress, Shashi Tharoor is a new player. The
66-year-old member of Parliament from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram was born in
London and served the United Nations for years. In 2006, Tharoor unsuccessfully
ran for the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations. He lost to South
Korean politician and diplomat Ban-ki-Moon.

who has a unique connect with India’s youth and who was effectively the first
Indian politician to anticipate the role of social media in politics, is a
rebel from God’s Own Country. Tharoor has been admonished repeatedly for
praising the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and has
often played around with the official party line.

Shashi Tharoor (left) with Rahul Gandhi (right) during Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kerala

His relationship with the
Gandhis is unclear, but it would not be an overstatement to say that Kharge has
an upper hand over Tharoor in this regard.

State of
the Congress:
Congress is perhaps in its worst state since Independence. The grand old party
is currently in power in just two states – Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. In three
other states, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Jharkhand, it is a minor coalition partner.
The party has been looking for rejuvenation for nearly eight years now. The new
Congress president, a non-Gandhi, seems to be one of the trump cards at play. How
the new Congress president performs, added to how the new president is allowed
to perform will determine the future of the Congress president and that of the
Indian opposition to the Narendra Modi-led government.