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Explained | Kharge Appointed Party Chief: How Does Congress Elect A President?

How did the Indian National Congress party, India's oldest political party, elect Mallikarjun Kharge as president?

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Explainers
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Explained | Kharge Appointed Party Chief: How Does Congress Elect A President?
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For the first time in over 23 years, the Congress party elected a president who is not from the Gandhi family, senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge. Over 9,000 delegates of the grand old party voted to elect a new president on 17 October, with the results announced on 19 October.

Kharge defeated Congress MP from Trivandrum, Shashi Tharoor by securing 7,897 votes against Tharoor's 1,072 of a total of 9,385 votes.

So, how does a party that has existed for over 135 years elect a new president? Keep reading.

Explained | Kharge Appointed Party Chief: How Does Congress Elect A President?

  1. 1. How Does The Congress Elect A New President?

    The process for electing a new party president is covered in Article XVIII of the same text that governs all of the Congress' functions – The Constitution & Rules of the Indian National Congress.

    The returning officer for the election, ie, the person overseeing the election, will be the chairman of the central election authority (CEA). In this case, that's Madhusudan Mistry, the chairman of the Congress CEA.

    Now, Article III of the Congress' Constitution divides the party into the following sub-committees:

    • The All India Congress Committee

    • The Working Committee

    • Pradesh Congress Committees

    • District/City Congress Committees

    • Sub-committees, like the Block or Constituency Congress Committee

    Article XVIII adds that the president will be elected by the delegates of the party from the Pradesh Congress Committees (PCC).

    The delegates in the PCCs are representatives of the individual Block Committees, who each block elects to a PCC, through a secret ballot.

    Expand
  2. 2. When Will The New Congress Party President Be Elected?

    According to the CEA, the last date for the submission of candidates' names is Saturday, 24 September. Once this is done, the returning officer, Madhusudan Mistry, will publish the names of the candidates and give them up to seven days to withdraw their candidature.

    Candidates who want to withdraw their candidature need to write to the returning officer stating their withdrawal within the seven-day period.

    Once the final list of candidates has been made public, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) will set a date for the election, which is ordinarily more than seven days after the list of candidates is made public.

    In this case, the CWC has scheduled the elections for 17 October, with results to be announced on 19 October.

    Clause (e) of Article XVIII states that on the actual voting day, delegates shall vote for one of the two candidates if there are just two candidates, via voting paper.

    If there are more than two candidates, like we mentioned earlier, delegates will indicate their preference for two candidates by writing 1 and 2 next to their names. Any voting paper showing less than two preferences, in the case of more than two candidates contesting the election, will be regarded as invalid.

    Expand
  3. 3. A Brief History of Elections In The Congress Party

    The Indian National Congress is India's oldest political party, tracing back to 1885. In this time, the party has elected or appointed presidents 97 times.

    But we won't be diving into the party's elections all the way back to its founder and first president, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee. We'll just take a brief look at the party's past few elections and how they've played out.

    The Congress is required to hold organisational elections every five years.

    The last time the party held an election for the president's post was in 2017, when Rahul Gandhi was appointed as the president of the party unopposed.

    However, after the Congress' defeat in the 2019 general assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi resigned as the president, and Sonia Gandhi was appointed as the interim president of the CWC.

    Sonia Gandhi's tenure as the Congress president started in 1998, when she was appointed to replace Sitaram Kesri.

    Two years later, in 2000, she contested the party's elections against Jitendra Prasada and won by a landslide of 7,448 votes against Prasada's 94 votes.

    Her tenure as the president continued uninterrupted from 1998 to 2017, when she stepped down.

    Prior to Sonia's election as the party president in 1998, Sitaram Kesri had defeated heavyweights like Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot in the party's presidential election in June 1997.

    Kesri's victory was hailed as a political "tortoise-hare" fable with him winning 6,224 of the delegates' votes while Pawar and Pilot secured 882 and 354 votes respectively, despite travelling across the country to meet and mingle with delegates in the weeks leading to the vote.

    Expand
  4. 4. What's Likely To Happen In These Elections ForThe Party President?

    At present, the Congress has over 9,000 delegates from the different Pradesh Congress Committees across India, according to AICC sources.

    The current elections appear to have three candidates:

    • Shashi Tharoor, Trivandrum MP, who said he had received Sonia Gandhi's approval to contest for the post of president

    • Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot

    • Former President Rahul Gandhi, who hasn't indicated that he will be running for the post, but has received vociferous support from at least 11 state units for the post

    At present, Ashok Gehlot has held firm on the demand that he will only take up the post of the AICC president if he can also continue as the chief minister of Rajasthan.

    According to Congress MP Digvijaya Singh, this is not allowed under the 'Udaipur Declaration' which mandates that one party member only hold one post.

    Meanwhile, the Tharoor camp, along with 4 other MPs, has demanded that the electoral rolls be made public.

    Who will lead the grand old party once the dust settles? We'll likely only know come 19 October, the result day.

    Or, like most of its past elections, will Congress have a unanimous president in mind well before this date?

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

How Does The Congress Elect A New President?

The process for electing a new party president is covered in Article XVIII of the same text that governs all of the Congress' functions – The Constitution & Rules of the Indian National Congress.

The returning officer for the election, ie, the person overseeing the election, will be the chairman of the central election authority (CEA). In this case, that's Madhusudan Mistry, the chairman of the Congress CEA.

Now, Article III of the Congress' Constitution divides the party into the following sub-committees:

  • The All India Congress Committee

  • The Working Committee

  • Pradesh Congress Committees

  • District/City Congress Committees

  • Sub-committees, like the Block or Constituency Congress Committee

Article XVIII adds that the president will be elected by the delegates of the party from the Pradesh Congress Committees (PCC).

The delegates in the PCCs are representatives of the individual Block Committees, who each block elects to a PCC, through a secret ballot.

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If there are two candidates contesting for the post of the president, delegates will indicate their vote for one on a secret ballot.

  • If there is only one candidate, they are automatically declared duly elected as president of the next Congress session, under the same article.

  • If there are more than two candidates, the delegates will indicate their preference for two candidates by writing 1 and 2 next to their names. Any voting paper showing less than two preferences, in the case of more than two candidates contesting the election, will be regarded as invalid.

  • Any 10 delegates can also come together to propose the name of one of their peers as a candidate for the post of president.

In fact, the demand to make the electoral roll of delegates public was one of the demands made by five Congress MPs – Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor, Karti Chidambaram, Pradyut Bordoloi, and Abdul Khaleque, in September 2022.

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When Will The New Congress Party President Be Elected?

According to the CEA, the last date for the submission of candidates' names is Saturday, 24 September. Once this is done, the returning officer, Madhusudan Mistry, will publish the names of the candidates and give them up to seven days to withdraw their candidature.

Candidates who want to withdraw their candidature need to write to the returning officer stating their withdrawal within the seven-day period.

Once the final list of candidates has been made public, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) will set a date for the election, which is ordinarily more than seven days after the list of candidates is made public.

In this case, the CWC has scheduled the elections for 17 October, with results to be announced on 19 October.

Clause (e) of Article XVIII states that on the actual voting day, delegates shall vote for one of the two candidates if there are just two candidates, via voting paper.

If there are more than two candidates, like we mentioned earlier, delegates will indicate their preference for two candidates by writing 1 and 2 next to their names. Any voting paper showing less than two preferences, in the case of more than two candidates contesting the election, will be regarded as invalid.

ADVERTISEMENT

A Brief History of Elections In The Congress Party

The Indian National Congress is India's oldest political party, tracing back to 1885. In this time, the party has elected or appointed presidents 97 times.

But we won't be diving into the party's elections all the way back to its founder and first president, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee. We'll just take a brief look at the party's past few elections and how they've played out.

The Congress is required to hold organisational elections every five years.

The last time the party held an election for the president's post was in 2017, when Rahul Gandhi was appointed as the president of the party unopposed.

However, after the Congress' defeat in the 2019 general assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi resigned as the president, and Sonia Gandhi was appointed as the interim president of the CWC.

Sonia Gandhi's tenure as the Congress president started in 1998, when she was appointed to replace Sitaram Kesri.

Two years later, in 2000, she contested the party's elections against Jitendra Prasada and won by a landslide of 7,448 votes against Prasada's 94 votes.

Her tenure as the president continued uninterrupted from 1998 to 2017, when she stepped down.

Prior to Sonia's election as the party president in 1998, Sitaram Kesri had defeated heavyweights like Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot in the party's presidential election in June 1997.

Kesri's victory was hailed as a political "tortoise-hare" fable with him winning 6,224 of the delegates' votes while Pawar and Pilot secured 882 and 354 votes respectively, despite travelling across the country to meet and mingle with delegates in the weeks leading to the vote.

ADVERTISEMENT

What's Likely To Happen In These Elections ForThe Party President?

At present, the Congress has over 9,000 delegates from the different Pradesh Congress Committees across India, according to AICC sources.

The current elections appear to have three candidates:

  • Shashi Tharoor, Trivandrum MP, who said he had received Sonia Gandhi's approval to contest for the post of president

  • Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot

  • Former President Rahul Gandhi, who hasn't indicated that he will be running for the post, but has received vociferous support from at least 11 state units for the post

At present, Ashok Gehlot has held firm on the demand that he will only take up the post of the AICC president if he can also continue as the chief minister of Rajasthan.

According to Congress MP Digvijaya Singh, this is not allowed under the 'Udaipur Declaration' which mandates that one party member only hold one post.

Meanwhile, the Tharoor camp, along with 4 other MPs, has demanded that the electoral rolls be made public.

Who will lead the grand old party once the dust settles? We'll likely only know come 19 October, the result day.

Or, like most of its past elections, will Congress have a unanimous president in mind well before this date?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from explainers

Topics:  Congress   President   Congress  

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Edited By :Garima Sadhwani
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