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New Delhi: Congress leader and MP Mallikarjun Kharge, one of the candidates in the party's presidential election, on Sunday made it clear that the G23 camp no longer exists and all leaders are united to fight against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Asserting that he has not entered the polls to oppose anyone, Kharge announced his "official start" to the election campaign on Sunday. "There is no G23 camp now. All leaders (of G23) want to work together to stay united and fight against BJP-RSS. This is the reason they are supporting me," said Kharge.
He further said that he is contesting for the Congress president post because senior leaders of the party encouraged him to contest.
"Many senior leaders of the party have supported my nomination for Congress president post. Many leaders of the party told me that I should contest the elections. Due to their encouragement, I am contesting the elections today," said Congress MP.
Kharge, who entered the fray in the eleventh hour, was seen flanked by Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma, Prithviraj Chavan and Bhupinder Hooda when he submitted the form for the presidential race.
G-23 leaders had written to Sonia Gandhi in August 2020 seeking structural changes in the party and even questioned the process of electing 9000-odd delegates who make up the electoral college of the Congress president.
Notably, the 80-year-old leader had received support from nearly 30 Congress leaders, including Deepender Hooda, Salman Khurshid, Ashok Gehlot, Digvijaya Singh, Manish Tewari, Prithviraj Chavan, and several others.
"The day I filed my nomination, I submitted resignation from my post, aligning with the 'One Person One Post' decision of the party taken in Udaipur. I officially begin my campaign for the post of Congress party president today," Kharge said while addressing a press conference with other three Congress leaders Gourav Vallabh, Deepender S Hooda and Syed Naseer Hussain, here.
Kharge tendered his resignation as the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha on Saturday as he filed nomination papers to contest the post of president of his party a day before.
Apart from Kharge, G23 leader Shashi Tharoor has also filed his nomination for the post.
Gourav Vallabh also announced his resignation from the post of the official spokesperson of the party to campaign for Kharge in Congress' internal elections.
"All three of us (Congress leaders Gourav Vallabh, Deepender S Hooda and Syed Naseer Hussain) resigned from the post of official spokespersons to campaign for the election of Mallikarjun Kharge as party president and want this election to be free and fair," Vallabh said.
Congress Central Election Authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry said that a total of 20 nomination forms were received on Friday and added that the Gandhi family is not supporting any candidate for the party president's post.
Mistry added that 14 nominations were received from Mallikarjun Kharge, five from Shashi Tharoor and one from Jharkhand Congress leader KN Tripathi.
However, Tripathi's nomination for the Congress presidential election was rejected on Saturday due to signature issues.
He further said that the two current contenders for the post of Congress President include Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor.
Mistry said that the candidates were in the fray of their own volition and Gandhis are neutral in this contest and are not supporting anyone.
Tharoor on Saturday drew an analogy between the Gandhi family and the DNA of the party and said that no party chief can distance himself from the Gandhi family, asserting that he is contesting the party's presidential elections to bring a " change" in the grand old party.
He stressed that the contest between him and Kharge is "not a battle" and it should be left upon the Congress workers to choose between the duo.
Tharoor and Kharge are up against each other in the race for the post of Congress president.
Digvijaya Singh pulled out from the race on Friday (the last day to file nominations) and extended his support to Kharge, who he said is a senior and respected leader of the party, and against whom he "cannot think of contesting".
Singh was the second Congress leader to pull out of the race after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced he would not contest the elections following the political turmoil in his state.
With the Gandhis not running for the top post, the grand old party is all set to get a non-Gandhi president after over 25 years.
The results of the party polls will be declared on October 19. (ANI)