Shashi Tharoor versus Ashok Gehlot likely for Congress president poll

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New Delhi: Shashi Tharoor , former UN diplomat and current member of the pro-reform G-23 grouping in the Congress, is all set to run in the Congress president’s election even as Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot remains the top choice of the party among non-Gandhi contestants, signalling a likely Tharoor versus Gehlot contest for the top job.

This even as efforts are underway to convince Rahul Gandhi to run and seven state units — TN, Bihar, J&K, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat — have passed resolutions backing him as party chief and more state units will soon follow.

Thiruvananthapuram MP Tharoor (66) met Congress president Sonia Gandhi today and discussed with her “his intentions to run for the party chief’s post”. Sources said Tharoor wanted to gauge Sonia’s mind amid pro-Rahul resolutions by state Congress units. Sonia is learnt to have told Tharoor that she would maintain a “neutral position” in the event of an election for the party president’s post and “the party will not officially back anyone”. The remarks are significant amid talks that Gandhis favoured Gehlot as a non-Gandhi contestant with Rahul reluctant to run.

Even as a section of Congress leaders today maintained that stage appeared to have been set “for a friendly fight between Tharoor and Gehlot”, sources close to Gehlot said the CM was only working to convince Rahul to contest and the state unit had passed a related resolution.

Tharoor’s inclination to run became evident when he endorsed an appeal a section of Congress leaders issued to candidates in the AICC presidential poll today asking them to pledge against following any soft or hard religious lines. “I welcome this petition that is being circulated by a group of young Congress members, seeking constructive reforms in the party. It has gathered over 650 signatures so far. I am happy to endorse it and to go beyond it,” said Tharoor, who is expected to announce his candidature soon.

Tharoor’s political journey began in 2009 when he won the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat on the Congress ticket. He retained his seat in 2014 and 2019. The Congress president’s election will be held on October 17.