Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is reportedly being backed by the Gandhi family in the party presidential poll race against Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, on Saturday was seen walking with Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Karnataka. It is for the first time that Kharge, who had filed the nomination for the Congress president poll on September 30, participated in the Bharat Jodo Yatra which is in his home state for more than 10 days.
Earlier PTI had reported that 80-year-old Kharge stayed away from the Bharat Jodo Yatra in his home state of Karnataka alongside Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as the party is keen on underlining the impartiality in the presidential polls.
Other party leaders DK Shivakumar, Siddaramaiah, KC Venugopal, and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel were also seen in the padyatra today.
#WATCH | Congress presidential candidate Mallikarjun Kharge joins ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ with party MP Rahul Gandhi in Ballari district of Karnataka.Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel is also present. pic.twitter.com/pHRkv4Ye4I
— ANI (@ANI) October 15, 2022
Earlier, Congress presidential candidate Shashi Tharoor debunked suggestions that his rival Mallikarjun Kharge had been propped up by the Nehru-Gandhi family, which would continue to hold the reins of the party irrespective of who got elected to the top post.
This is the 38th day of the 3,570 km long Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and will culminate in Jammu and Kashmir. The padyatra, which has covered 600 km across the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, will traverse Karnataka till October 20 before moving into Telangana.
Weeks before filing the nomination for Congress president poll, Tharoor also participated in Bharat Jodo Yatra during Kerala leg in the second week of September. The Thiruvananthapuram MP had filed the nomination on September 30.
The polling for the Congress presidential election will be held on October 17. The counting of votes will be taken up on October 19 and the results will be declared the same day. More than 9,000 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates will vote in the poll.
Rahul Gandhi had earlier dismissed claims that the next Congress president would be “remote-controlled" by his family, saying both the contenders — Kharge and Tharoor — are people of stature and understanding and to make such a suggestion was insulting for them.
Tharoor, a former diplomat, has promised to bring changes in the party and said leaders like Kharge can’t bring change and will continue the system. On the other hand, Kharge said there is a fight against the RSS and the BJP but not among ourselves.
Even if one of the two—Kharge or Tharoor- withdraws his candidature, it is certain that a leader from non-Gandhi family background will take over the reins of Congress after two decades.
In the history of over 130-year-old party, Sonia Gandhi remains the longest serving party president. She took over party’s control from Sitaram Kesri following the 1998 Lok Sabha polls and has been at the helm since then barring a two-year period between 2017-19 when Rahul Gandhi became Congress president.
The last poll took place in November 2000 when Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasada by a big margin.