Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Saturday resigned as the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha after filing nomination as the presidential candidate in party elections. Kharge’s resignation, sent to party president Sonia Gandhi, is in line with the rule of one person, one post adopted by the party at its Udaipur conclave.
Sources said senior party leaders, P Chidambaram, Digvijaya Singh and Pramod Tiwari are the frontrunners in the race to replace Kharge.
The name of party general secretary Mukul Wasnik was also doing the rounds, but Congress leaders ruled it out saying the party may not pick up another Dalit for a top job within days of selecting Kharge for party presidency and appointing another Dalit leader Brijlal Khabri as Uttar Pradesh Congress president on Saturday.
Sources said Pramod Tiwari was also being considered for the job as Chidambaram, though best suited for the post, comes from the south and the party is in the process of electing its president from the same region. The party may look for a leader from a region other than the south, for this reason, they said.
Digvijaya Singh, the other strong contender for the post has been the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh for ten years, and is considered close to Rahul Gandhi. He is known for his political acumen and sharp wit. This makes him a good candidate for the post.
Party managers have also mentioned the possibility of the leadership deciding to give the post to a young leader in order to keep the balance after picking the 80-year-old Kharge for the presidency.
Meanwhile, former Jharkhand minister K N Tripathi's nomination for the Congress presidential election was rejected on Saturday, narrowing the presidential race to between Kharge and Shashi Tharoor.
Party's central election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry said Tripathi's form was rejected as the signature of one of his proposers did not match and another proposer's signature was repeated.
The withdrawal of nominations is allowed till October 8 and the final list of candidates will be out at 5 pm on the same day. If one withdraws during this seven-day window, polling will be held, Mistry said.