List of non-Gandhi chiefs at Helm since 1947

It’s a D-Day for Congress, which will vote today in the historic election to choose the successor to Sonia Gandhi, who led the party for some two decades. Congress veteran Mallikarjun Kharge will face Thiruvanthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor in the first election for the party’s top post in 22 years. The last election was held in November 2000 when Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasada by a large margin.

It would be the sixth time in its nearly 137-year history that an election campaign would decide who will take the office of party leader.

“In fact, this is the sixth time that Congress has held internal elections for its president in its 137-year history. The media have highlighted the years 1939, 1950, 1997 and 2000. In fact, there were also elections in 1977 when Kasu Brahmananda Reddy was elected,” said Congress Secretary-General for Communications Jairam Ramesh PTI.

In the history of the more than 130-year-old party, Sonia Gandhi remains the longest-serving party leader. She took 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.

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.

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 struggle against the RSS and the BJP, but not among us, adding that he would implement the Udaipur Declaration if elected.

Since a non-Gandhi family leader is supposed to lead the Grand Old Party, here are the non-Gandhi Nehru family leaders who have served as party leaders since India’s independence .


The Congress was chaired by JB Kripalani as the country gained its liberation from British rule. Popularly known as Acharya Kripalani, the leader was involved in the party affairs of several pro-independence movements in the country. The four-time Lok Sabha MP later left the party to form the Kisan Majdoor Praja Party.


Sitaramayya took part in the 1948 congressional presidential campaign with the support of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and emerged victorious. Sitaramayya was Governor of Madhya Pradesh from 1952 to 1957. He was one of the prominent leaders who called for the separate state of Andhra Pradesh.


In 1950, Tandon retained the top spot after winning the fight against Kripalani. Years later, he reportedly resigned from his post over differences with Nehru.

UN DHEBAR (1955-59)

After Nehru’s first term as Congress President, Dhebar took over the reins of the party and remained at the helm for four years. He also served as Chief Minister of Saurashtra from 1948 to 1954.


Reddy succeeded Indira Gandhi as Congress President in 1960. However, he left politics and resigned from the party in 1967. He was also the sixth President of India.

K KAMARAJ (1964-67)

Indira’s ascension as Congress President was reportedly not made possible by Kamaraj. Popularly known as the “Kingmaker,” Kamaraj, a syndicate leader, formed the Congress (O) after splitting with the Indira Gandhi-led Congress.


Nijalingappa was the last President of the undivided Congress Party before it split. However, he joined the syndicate leaders.

JAGJIVAN RAM (1970-71)

Jagjivan Ram served as President of the Gandhi-led Congress of India. After the emergency, he left 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 Indian Minister of Defense.


Sharma took over as President of the Congress in 1972 during the AICC session in Calcutta (Kolkata). From 1992 to 1997 he was President of India.


Barua chaired the Congress as party leader during the emergency. He was one of Indira Gandhi’s staunch supporters and is remembered for his proclamation ‘India is Indira, Indira is India’.


Rao became Congress President in 1992 after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. He was also the first prime minister of a non-Hindi speaking region.


In 1996, Kesri became Congress President. His tenure saw the resignation of several senior party leaders and defeat in the 1998 Lok Sabha election.

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