After months of hullabaloo on who will succeed Sonia Gandhi as president of Indian National Congress, the fight for her successor has narrowed down to two leaders- Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor. Congress, which often faced criticism over alleged interference of Gandhi family in its affairs, is witnessing an election for the president post in two decades. The last poll took place in November 2000 when Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasada by a big margin.
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 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.
ALSO READ: A History of Congress Presidential Polls: How the Dynasty Came to Dominate the Grand Old Party
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.
Candidates can withdraw their candidature by October 8 and the final list of contenders will be published on the same day.
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.
ALSO READ: Congress Presidential Contest: Tharoor Lays Claim to ‘Change’, Kharge Makes ‘Consensus’ Pitch
As a non-Gandhi family leader is set to lead the grand-old-party, here’s a look at those leaders who did not come from Gandhi-Nehru family background but served as party presidents so far since India’s independence.
J B KRIPALANI – 1947
The Congress was being led by J B Kripalani when the country achieved its freedom from the British rule. Popularly known as Acharya Kripalani, the leader was involved in party’s affairs in several movements for country’s independence. The four-time Lok Sabha MP later left the party to form the Kisan Majdoor Praja Party.
PATTABHI SITARAMAYYA (1948-49)
Sitaramayya entered in the Congress presidential contest with the support of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948 and emerged victorious. Sitaramayya was the Governor of Madhya Pradesh from 1952-57. He was one of the prominent leaders who demanded for the separate state of Andhra Pradesh.
PURUSHOTTAM DAS TANDON – 1950
In 1950, Tandon claimed the top post after winning the battle against Kripalani. Years later, he resigned from his post reportedly over differences with Nehru.
U N DHEBAR (1955-59)
After Nehru’s first stint as Congress president, Dhebar took over the reins of the party and remained at the helm for four years. He also served the Chief Minister of Saurashtra from 1948-54.
NEELAM SANJIVA REDDY (1960-63)
Reddy succeeded Indira Gandhi as Congress president in 1960. However, he left the politics and resigned from the party in 1967. He was also the sixth President of India.
K KAMARAJ (1964-67)
According to reports, Indira’s rise as Congress president could not become possible due to Kamaraj. Popularly known as “kingmaker”, Kamaraj, a Syndicate leader, formed the Congress (O) after the split with Indira Gandhi-led Congress.
S NIJALINGAPPA (1968-69)
Nijalingappa was the last president of the undivided Congress party before its split. However, he joined the Syndicate leaders.
JAGJIVAN RAM (1970-71)
Jagjivan Ram served as the president of India Gandhi-led Congress. After the emergency, he left the Congress in 1977 to join the Janata Party. He also founded his own party Congress (J) in 1981. During the 1971 India-Pakistan war, he served as the defence minister of India.
SHANKAR DAYAL SHARMA (1972-74)
Sharma took over as the president of Congress during the AICC session in Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1972. He was the President of India from 1992 to 1997.
DEVAKANTA BARUA (1975-77)
Barua was leading the Congress as party president during the emergency. He was one of Indira Gandhi’s staunch supporters and is remembered for his proclamation “India is Indira, Indira is India”.
P V NARASIMHA RAO (1992-96)
Following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, Rao became the Congress president in 1992. He was also the first prime minister from a non-Hindi speaking region.
SITARAM KESRI (1996-98)
In 1996, Kesri became the president of Congress. His term saw the exit of several senior party leaders and defeat in 1998 Lok Sabha elections.
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