Congress Prez poll neutral? ‘Official’ candidate Kharge walks with Rahul at Bharat Jodo Yatra in home state of Karnataka

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is reportedly backed by the Gandhi family in the party’s presidential campaign against Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, was seen with Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Karnataka on Saturday. It is the first time that Kharge is participating in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is held in his home state for more than 10 days.

Earlier PTI had reported that Kharge, 80, had stayed away from the Bharat Jodo Yatra in his home state of Karnataka alongside Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as the party was keen to emphasize impartiality in the presidential elections.

Other party leaders DK Shivakumar, Siddaramaiah, KC Venugopal and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel were also seen in padyatra today.

Earlier, Congressional presidential candidate Shashi Tharoor refuted suggestions that his rival Mallikarjun Kharge had been supported by the Nehru-Gandhi family, which would continue to hold the reins of the party regardless of who was elected to the top posts.

This is the 38th day of the 3,570 km Bharat Jodo Yatra which started in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and will culminate in Jammu and Kashmir. The Padyatra, which has traveled 600 km through the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, will transit Karnataka by October 20 before entering Telangana.

Voting for the Congressional presidential election will take place on October 17. The counting of votes will begin on October 19th and the results will be announced the same day. More than 9,000 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates will take part in the survey.

Rahul Gandhi had previously dismissed claims that the next Congress President would be “remotely controlled” by his family, saying that both candidates – Kharge and Tharoor – are people of stature and understanding and that such a proposal would be offensive to them.

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Tharoor, a former diplomat, has promised to bring about change in the party, saying leaders like Kharge cannot bring about change and would carry on the system. On the other hand, Kharge said there is a fight against the RSS and the BJP, but not between us.

Even if either Kharge or Tharoor withdraws his candidacy, what is certain is that after two decades, a leader from a non-Gandhi family will take over the reins of Congress.

ALSO READ: Congress to Elect a Non-Gandhi Chief After 2 Decades: A Look at “Outsiders” Who’ve Led the Party Since 1947

In the history of the more than 130-year-old party, Sonia Gandhi remains the longest-serving party leader. She took over party control from Sitaram Kesri after the 1998 Lok Sabha polls and has been at the top ever since, apart from a two-year period between 2017 and 2019 when Rahul Gandhi became Congress President.

The last election was held in November 2000 when Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasada by a large margin.

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