Selection by Election
While the Gandhis have prevailed upon Ashok Gehlot to contest the party’s presidential poll, other names could also be contesting the elections. But how does this translate on the ground? Will it really be a free and fair election? Shashi Tharoor has indicated that he wants to contest and Manish Tewari is also said to be mulling over his candidature. Both Tharoor and Tewari are from the G-23 and can expect to face considerable flak from the party faithful, should they challenge Gehlot. Tharoor has already been at the receiving end of a tweet from party spokesperson Gourav Vallabh, criticising him for being a signatory to the G-23. While Gourav has been reprimanded, this may not stop the attacks from coming. What is equally interesting is to see if the challengers will find enough proposers to back their candidature. Each candidate needs 10 PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) delegates to propose his name, and as of now, Tharoor is said to be having a slight problem in collecting that number. If Manish Tewari decides to contest, he would also need ten proposers, ready to take on the Establishment (read, the Gandhis).

Who will the new Congress President report to?
Will the new Congress president be allowed to function independent of the Gandhis or will he have to clear every appointment and decision with the high command? Will he be able to change the party set-up and appoint new general secretaries and spokespersons? Will he—and this one is more pertinent—be able to hold on to more than one post ? In the past, Sonia Gandhi has been party president and leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party. The benchmark really will be if Ashok Gehlot can stay on as Rajasthan Chief Minister or at the very least appoint one of his nominees to the post. On the other hand, if the state chief ministership goes to his bête-noir Sachin Pilot, then that would give Congress watchers a fair idea as to the extent of his autonomy, should he win the election to be party chief. That’s the benchmark really.

Rajasthan Musical Chairs
While Rahul Gandhi has let it be known that the Udaipur resolve of “one man one post” should be adhered to, the current Rajasthan Chief Minister has found a loophole in the clause. As Ashok Gehlot told the media recently, the “one man one post” applies to “nominated” posts and not “elected” ones. Should he win the party presidency, then that would be an elected win and Gehlot is equally confident that the current state MLAs would also “elect” him as CM should this be put to vote. Anyhow the Congress has always maintained that it is the MLAs and not the high command who “elect” the CM face, so it would be difficult for the Gandhis to counter that one. Meanwhile, Madhusudan Mistry, in-charge of the polling process, has told the media that the Congress Constitution has no provision that a Chief Minister cannot be party president. Well, it’s not for nothing that Gehlot has been called a jadoogar (magician). It now remains to be seen if he can pull two posts out of the Congress hat.

BJP’s Party President Polls
While all eyes are on the Congress presidential poll, there is another party presidency that will be vacant early next year. BJP president J.P. Nadda’s term is coming to an end and it would be interesting to see if the amiable party chief gets an extension. In fact, this could well be the case, for Nadda has kept a low profile and not ruffled any feathers during his stint. He recently attended the three-day coordination meeting of the RSS in Raipur and was present for all three days. He has also since met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at Udasin Ashram, the makeshift RSS office in Delhi. The Prime Minister too is said to have an excellent working relationship with Nadda and there has been no course-collision between Amit Shah or Nadda either. In fact, for a long time, Nadda worked with Amit Shah’s team at the BJP HQ. However, other names doing the rounds include Dharmendra Pradhan, who is an Amit Shah protégé, and has considerable organisational experience behind him since his days as the party’s Yuva Morcha chief and also election in-charge of several states. Or, the PM-Shah duo could well spring a last-minute surprise with another dark horse.