Dubbed "Congress' T N Seshan" by many party colleagues, AICC central election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry presided over the sixth polls in the party's history for electing its chief while deftly navigating through talk of uneven playing field and constant media glare. Believed to be a trusted man of former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, Mistry has often been the party's go-to man for daunting assignments, including taking on Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Vadodara.
The election contest between senior party leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor came 22 years after Sonia Gandhi had handed Jitendra Prasada a crushing defeat. The election which was capped by Kharge winning over Tharoor with the former getting 7,897 votes and the latter 1,072 votes, proved to be a long-drawn affair and a tough challenge to meet for Mistry. Tharoor, who had raised issues of uneven playing field, has also hailed Mistry as "fair-minded" and pointed out that there were "flaws" in the party's system as no such election was held in 22 years.
Mistry's fair-mindedness and scrupulousness are lauded by many in the party. "Mistry ji is TN Seshan with flowing locks of hair. He has been tough, scrupulous and very demanding of a free, fair and transparent poll," Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, comparing Mistry to the former chief election commissioner who was known for being strict and non-partisan.
"I had to get three spokespersons to resign following a directive from him so that they could campaign for one candidate," Ramesh told PTI. Mistry set high standards of non-partisanship and really any complaints on the poll process are completely "misplaced and baseless", he said.
Mistry's political journey has been an interesting one and has also seen many ups and downs. He was part of Shankersinh Vaghela's Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP). He then became a member of the Indian National Congress when RJP merged with it. Mistry was elected to the 13th Lok Sabha on a Congress ticket in 2001, in a bye-election from Sabarkantha. He was subsequently re-elected to the 14th Lok Sabha from Sabarkantha in 2004, and served as member on several parliamentary committees.
He lost the 2009 Lok Sabha elections from the same constituency, to Mahendrasinh Chauhan of the BJP. Mistry was chosen for the daunting task of taking on Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Vadodara but lost by a huge margin.
In 2014, he was nominated to Rajya Saha by the Congress party. Mistry has also served on many organisational posts of the AICC, incluing as general secretary in-charge of the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh. Though he has fought many crucial political battles but observers regard the challenge of conducting AICC presidential polls 22 years after the last contest in the party, as the most uphill.
Though allegations of uneven playing field by the Tharoor camp did pose a challenge but Mistry with his deft handling has gotten the polls done with both candidates accepting the outcome and pledging to move on. Carefully choosing words while speaking with the media, being brief and not getting drawn into verbal duels have been his strengths that have helped him getting the job done for the Congress.
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