Shashi Tharoor Best Losing Candidate In Years, Has A Bright Spot In Defeat To Mallikarjun Kharge


Shashi Tharoor got nearly 12 per cent of the valid votes in a one-on-one with Mallikarjun Kharge.

New Delhi:

Shashi Tharoor’s defeat in the Congress presidential polls wasn’t a shock as such — Mallikarjun Kharge was anyway the favourite owing to the Gandhis’ backing — but he has managed to be the best losing candidates in years. In absolute numbers and percentage, he got more votes than any losing candidate in the three chiefship contests that the Congress has seen in the last 25 years. 

At 1,072 of the 8,969 valid votes, Shashi Tharoor got nearly 11.95 per cent of the valid votes. Mr Kharge won with 7,897. In all, 9,385 votes were polled but the party poll panel declared 416 invalid due to incorrect marking or other such reasons.

The last election happened 22 years ago, when Sonia Gandhi was challenged by UP’s Jitendra Prasad. She was two years into the job, having been chosen unanimously. 

Jitendra Prasada managed fewer than 100 votes — at just over 1 per cent of the 7,542 valid votes. It was one-on-one with Sonia Gandhi, who got 7,448 votes. 

There were 7,771 votes polled, but 229 votes were declared invalid.

Jitendra Prasada’s son, Jitin Prasada, went on to became a union minister in the Congress-led UPA government but recently switched to the BJP.

Before Sonia Gandhi came in, Sitaram Kesari’s hold on the party was challenged in 1997. The challengers were Maharashtra leader Sharad Pawar, who later broke away to form his own party, and Rajesh Pilot, the late leader from Rajasthan whose son, Sachin Pilot, was part of a sideshow in the latest contest.

Of the 7,460 valid votes in that election, Rajesh Pilot was a distant third with 354 (less than 1 per cent), while Sharad Pawar got 888 (11.9 per cent) — just shy of Shashi Tharoor’s score in the latest election. Sitaram Kesri, a freedom fighter from Bihar, won the 1997 contest with a whopping 6,224 votes.

But he had to make way for Sonia Gandhi once she acceded to several leaders’ request to steer the Congress and was chosen as president by consensus in 1998. The party was struggling against a rising BJP at the time.

Sonia Gandhi served an uninterrupted 19 years until son Rahul Gandhi got the chair in 2017, only to quit after the 2019 Lok Sabha election defeat. He insisted that a non-Gandhi take up the job, and refused to contest for the post either. Sonia Gandhi thus became the interim chief as the party prepped for the polls that finally led to Mallikarjun Kharge becoming the first non-Gandhi chief in 24 years.

Mr Kharge’s candidature came after a Rajasthan-centric sideshow — the Gandhis’ first choice, Ashok Gehlot, was not quite ready to give up the Rajasthan Chief Minister’s chair to Sachin Pilot. Ever the loyalist, Mr Kharge stepped in as Ashok Gehlot stuck to his state.

Shashi Tharoor, who made some complaints about the poll process, has since said the contest strengthened democracy. He was among the first leaders to call on Mr Kharge and posing for photos showing unity.


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