Interest mounts in INC presidential poll as counting begins at AICC office
The internal election to choose a party president of the Congress has generated considerable interest and has put pressure on other parties to follow its example
Counting of ballots cast in the election for the Congress president began at the AICC headquarters around 10.30 am. All sealed ballot boxes from 68 polling booths across the country had reached the party office by Tuesday evening and were kept in a strong-room.
The polling had taken place on Monday, October 17 and around 9,500 delegates had cast ballots in favour of one of the two candidate of their choice, Shashi Tharoor and Mallikarjun Kharge, in the fray.
Barring the period between 1992 and 1998, when P.V. Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri were at the helm, the party's top post has been occupied by a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family since 1978. Until this week there were five elections (1939, 1950, 1977, 1977 and 2000) held to elect the party president.
While many of the regional parties, including Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi or YSR Congress, are tightly controlled family enterprises, BJP has looked up to its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, to choose its president.
When BJP's IT Cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted about Congress candidate Shashi Tharoor getting allegedly a raw deal from the party establishment, Mr. Tharoor responded by tweeting, "We are perfectly capable of resolving our own internal differences within @incIndia, @amitmalviya. We don’t need your involvement in our party’s election. Try to hold one of your own first".
“Both of us are contesting to strengthen the Congress and to build a stronger and better nation for the future generations,” the other contestant, Mallikarjun Kharge said in a tweet.
One of the contestants, media reports maintained, had complained of irregularities in Lucknow during the polling. The same media reports quoted sources in the party’s Central Election Authority as clarifying that three AICC secretaries wanted to cast their ballots in Lucknow but were denied permission.
The counting agents of Mallikarjun Kharge are Pramod Tiwari, Kodikunil Suresh, Gaurav Gogoi, Syed Nasir Hussain, Kuljit Singh Bagra and Gurdeep Singh Sappal. Karti Chidambaram, Atul Chaturvedi and Sumedh Gaikwal are among those who are counting agents of Shashi Tharoor.
Unprecedented curiosity has been generated about the election result with not just the media but also ordinary people inquiring when the results will be declared. Congress workers and delegates are also anxiously waiting for the outcome of the election, the first one since November, 2000 when Smt Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasada. Since then she was elected unopposed as was Rahul Gandhi in 2017.
Congress is the only political party in the country to have opted for an election of the party president. Although as many as 27 articles have been published in the English media since 2019 on the need for ‘internal democracy’ in political parties, not even the BJP has had elections at any level, leave alone for the party president.
The election for the Congress president has enthused party workers, who say they are impressed with the process and the arrangements made. Identity cards with QR codes, polling booths and secret ballots inspired confidence, pointed out Tamil Nadu PCC chief Shri Alagiri. Another Congress leader hoped the election would start a process of democratisation within the party, and the workers would expect similar exercises to elect State unit chiefs, district congress committee presidents and block-level presidents.