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Congress Presidential Polls: Former leaders before Sonia Gandhi who are ‘non-Gandhis’!

In a move that may portend a significant overhaul of the party’s internal structure and its potential revival in India’s current political landscape, all eyes are on the Congress top leadership as the country waits for the All India Congress Committee presidential elections, which are scheduled to be held today. The fact that a leader from the Congress party who is not a member of the Gandhi family will lead the party for the first time in 25 years makes the election crucial.

With the exception of the two years from 2017 to 2019 when Rahul Gandhi presided, Sonia Gandhi has been the party’s leader since 1998, making the approaching elections unquestionably historic. The new president will succeed Sonia Gandhi, who has held the position for the greatest period of time. Jitendra Prasada was defeated by Gandhi in 2000.

There have been numerous people who have held the role of Congress President during the course of its 137-year history, but there have only ever been five elections through a competitive democratic process. After 1939, 1950, 1997, and 2000, the party is electing its president for the sixth time internally. The Gandhis have ruled the Presidency, and numerous top figures without Nehru or Gandhi ties have led the party.

President Acharya Kriplani managed the difficult process of transforming India from a slavish colony to a free country in 1947. Sitaramayya succeeded him as party leader after independence in 1948–1949 After Tandon assumed the position in 1950, Nehru led the party from 1951 until 1955.  Nehru left the post of Congress president in 1955 and UN Dhebar took over the reins of the party.

In 1959, Indira Gandhi presided over the Congress before being succeeded by N S Reddy, who held the position until 1963. From 1964 to 1967, K. Kamraj presided over the Congress. Known as the ‘Kingmaker’, Kamaraj had a key role in appointing Lal Bahadur Shastri as prime minister following Nehru’s passing in 1964, followed by Indira Gandhi in 1966, and S Nijalingappa as president of the Congress in 1968–1969.

In 1970–1971 Jagjivan Ram was elected Congress president, and in 1972–1974 Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma filled that position. From 1975 until 1977, Devkant Barua presided over the Congress. K Brahmananda Reddy served as leader from 1977 to 1978. From 1978 until 1984, Indira Gandhi presided over the Congress as president. Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi’s son, served as Congress president from 1985 to 1991 following her death. P V Narasimha Rao presided over the Congress from 1992 and 1996.

Following that, Kesri took over as president until Sonia Gandhi succeeded him in 1998. She held the position until 2017, when Rahul Gandhi was elected president. After Rahul Gandhi resigned in the wake of the disastrous Lok Sabha elections, Sonia Gandhi took over as temporary leader in 2019. The full list of Congress presidents since 1947 who have not been associated with Gandhi or Nehru is as follows:

  • J.B. Kripalani – 1947
  • Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya – 1948–1949
  • Purushottam Das Tandon – 1950
  • U N Dhebar – 1955-59
  • Neelam Sanjiva Reddy – 1960-63
  • K. Kamaraj – 1964-67
  • S. Nijalingappa – 1968-69
  • Jagjivan Ram – 1970-71
  • Shankar Dayal Sharma – 1972-74
  • Devakanta Barua – 1975-77
  • Kasu Brahmananda Reddy – 1977–78
  • P. V. Narasimha Rao – 1992-96
  • Sitaram Kesri – 1996-98

After over 25 years, Congress will soon welcome a non-Gandhi family to its top leadership position with the results of today’s elections, in which Thiruvananthapuram-based MP Shashi Tharoor will face off against seasoned Congressman Mallikarjun Kharge.


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