New Delhi: Counting of votes began on Wednesday in the Congress presidential polls in which senior leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor faced-off for the post of AICC chief. The counting of the votes cast on Monday began at 10 am at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi.
All sealed ballot boxes from the 68 polling booths set up across the country had been brought here by Tuesday evening and kept in a ‘strong room’ at the party office. The counting agents of 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 Tharoor.
While Kharge is considered the firm favourite with his perceived proximity to the Gandhis and a large number of senior leaders backing him, Tharoor has pitched himself as the candidate of change. Congress central election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry has expressed satisfaction with the party’s presidential polls process, saying it was ‘free, fair and transparent’. He has also said it was a secret ballot and no one would get to know who voted for whom.
Of the total 9,915 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates that formed the electoral college to pick the party chief in a secret ballot, over 9,500 cast their ballot at PCC offices and the AICC headquarters, Mistry had said at a press conference after the polling ended on Monday. Electors in the Congress presidential polls had been asked to put a tick mark against their candidate in the ballot paper after Tharoor’s team took up with the party’s top poll body the issue of its earlier directive that voters write ‘1’ to reflect their preference. This, the team said, might lead to confusion.
The party will get its first non-Gandhi president in 24 years after more than 9,500 votes are counted. The polls are historic as the new president would replace Sonia Gandhi, the longest-serving party president who has been at the helm since 1998, barring the two years between 2017 and 2019 when Rahul Gandhi had taken over.