Kharge or Tharoor ? Cong voting ends

Around 9,000 Congress leaders voted today to elect a non-Gandhi as the party chief, a first in over 20 years. While veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge is seen as the favourite, his opponent Shashi Tharoor said he was "confident" despite the odds.
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Asked if he would get a clean sweep, as is being predicted by a section of Congress delegates, Mallikarjun Kharge said, "Whether it is a clean sweep or not will be known on the 19th (Wednesday, when the counting of votes takes place)". "How can we predict now? If I say anything now, it shows that I have got too much ego," he added.
"I'm confident. The fate of the Congress party is in the hands of party workers. The odds have been stacked against us as the party leaders and establishment were overwhelmingly with the other candidate," Shashi Tharoor told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram, where he cast his vote.
While Mr Kharge received a rousing reception by the delegates in Chennai, Mr Tharoor's welcome in his home State was lukewarm. Many of the senior leaders from Kerala have openly declared their support for Mr Kharge.
Congress MP Karti Chidambaram, one the signatories to Mr Tharoor's nomination, told NDTV that "deliberate misinformation" has been spread about the candidate, who pitched for change. Even so, "Shashi will get significant votes, there will be a pleasant surprise," he added.
The perception that Mr Kharge is the 'approved' candidate has set off speculation that he would act as proxy for the Gandhis. Mr Kharge has gone on record saying that he would take the help of the Gandhis when needed. He and Mr Tharoor have reiterated that the Gandhis are maintaining strict neutrality in the election.
Congress's interim chief Sonia Gandhi, who cast her vote in the morning, said, "I have been waiting for a long time for this day". Mrs Gandhi still remains chairperson of the party's Parliamentary board and Gaurav Gogoi, the party's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, has said Rahul Gandhi will remain the "face of the party for 2024 election".
Mrs Gandhi was handed the management of the party three months after Rahul Gandhi stepped down from the top post in 2019, accepting responsibility for the two consecutive routs of the Congress in general elections. He has consistently refused to reconsider his decision.
Mr Kharge joined the contest at the eleventh hour after a nudge from the Central leadership when Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot dropped out. Mr Gehlot's candidature went sideways following rebellion by his loyalist MLAs, who were trying to block his arch-rival Sachin Pilot from succeeding him as the next Chief Minister of Rajasthan.
Exiting the race even before it started, Mr Gehlot apologised to Sonia Gandhi. But today, he made his stance clear. "Experience counts, experience matters, the youth can work hard but there is no alternate to experience," Mr Gehlot said after casting his vote.
Congress has mostly been led by a member of the Gandhi family, choosing them unanimously for terms of five years, except in 1937, 1950, 1997 and 2000, when elections were held since there was more than one candidate.