Rahul Gandhi Congress president nomination: Nehru, Indira, Nijalingappa – a look at careers of all party presidents since Independence

By: | Updated: December 4, 2017 11:25 AM

Rahul Gandhi set for Congress President: Rahul Gandhi will soon become the president of Congress - India's Grand Old Party credited for the freedom movement against Britishers.

Rahul Gandhi set to get Congress crown of thorns: A look at careers of all party presidents since IndependenceIn past, the office of the Congress president was held by leaders with great political expertise and calibre.

Rahul Gandhi set for Congress President: Rahul Gandhi will soon become the president of Congress – India’s Grand Old Party credited for the freedom movement against Britishers. In past, the office of the Congress president was held by leaders with great political expertise and calibre. In the initial years, the office was not necessarily held by the same person who would be party’s face for the prime ministerial position. However, since 1978, it has been held by a person from Gandhi-Nehru family (except for a time when it was out of electoral politics) –  someone who is either the prime ministerial candidate or acts as the decider for the party’s appointment for the same position. Like in the case of Indira Gandhi, she had become the president in 1978 and kept holding the office till 1984 – in this tenure, she also served as the prime minister. Also, Rajiv Gandhi served as the Congress chief for 6 years, simultaneously holding the position of prime minister. Then came Sonia in 1998, she was the person who is credited for handpicking Manmohan Singh, former RBI governor, as the prime minister in 2004. If Rahul becomes the chief, he will have the responsibility of carrying forward the legacy of stalwarts like Jawahar Lal Nehru, Purushottam Das Tandon, Nijalingappa, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and Jagjivan Ram. Here’s is a look at the illustrious career of former Congress presidents:

B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya: Sitaramayya became the first president of Indian National Congress post independence. Better known as the historian of the Indian National Congress, Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya was elected as the President of the Jaipur session of the Indian National Congress in 1948. He also served as the Governor of Madhya Pradesh from 1952 to 1957.

Purushottam Das Tandon: Purushottam Das Tandon became the head of India’s Grand Old Party in 1950. At that time there used to be voting to choose the president. Tandon contested successfully against Acharya Kriplani. Previously, he had fought for the same position against Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Tandon was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1946, to the Lok Sabha in 1952 and to the Rajya Sabha in 1956, but after 1956 his indifferent health forced him to retire from active public work.

Jawahar Lal Nehru: While serving as the prime minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru also took over as the chief of his party in 1952. He continued to serve till 1954. Under him, the Congress won Lok Sabha elections of 1952 with an overwhelming majority. Previously, he was elected as the president in 1929 Lahore session. Nehru was 40 years old at that time.

Uchharangrai Navalshankar Dhebar:  He served as the President of Congress between 1955 to 1959. He also won third Lok Sabha from Rajkot in 1962.

Indira Gandhi: She served as Congress president thrice. She first took the charge in the year 1959. The election had aroused much criticism for alleged nepotism. Even Nehru himself has expressed his disapproval for the move and termed it “wholly undemocratic and an undesirable thing”. She then served as party chief between 1978-1983. She was chosen again in 1983 to serve as the president till her assassination in 1984.

K Kamaraj: Widely acknowledged as the “Kingmaker” in Indian politics in 1960s, Kamraj served as INC president for 3 years between 1964-1967. He is also considered the person responsible for the elevation of Lal Bahadur Shastri to the position of prime minister of India. He also served  as the 3rd Chief Minister of Madras State (Tamil Nadu) during 1954–1963 and a Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha during 1952–1954 and 1967–1975.

Nijalingappa: A two time Chief Minister of Karnataka (then Mysore State), Nijalingappa became Congress president in 1968. In 1969, he expelled Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from Congress for anti-party activities. He also served as party president between 1956 and 1958 and once again, between 1962 and 1968.

Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy: He served as the president of the Congress party between 1960 to 1963. Later, he was elected as the sixth President of India, serving from 1977 to 1982. Reddy served as the speaker of the Lok Sabha from 1967 to 1969. He then contested for the office of the President as the official Congress candidate against V V Giri who was then the Vice-President.

The Presidential contest proved to be of momentous significance in the history of the Congress, ultimately resulting in the split of the Grand Old Party with an overwhelming section siding with Indira Gandhi, who had rebelled against the old guard, headed by Nijalingappa, which later came to be known as the Congress (O).

Jagjivan Ram: A stalwart Congress leader, Jagjivan Ram joined the camp led by Indira Gandhi after the party split in 1969. Indira’s faction was recognised as the original Congress by Election Commission of India. Jagjivan Ram became the first president of this faction.

SD Sharma: Shankar Dayal Sharma, a close confidante of Indira Gandhi, was elected Congress president in 1962. He later went on to hold the offices of vice president of India and President of India. He was the Vice-President of India from 3 September, 1987, till he assumed the office of the President in 1992. He served in this position till 1997.

Devakanta Barua: After Baruah, came DK Barua. Baruah was the head of Congress party in the Emergency era. Barua too was a close confidante of Indira. His career included a stint as Chairman, Oil India Limited, as Governor of Bihar, and as a member of the Rajya Sabha (1973-77). During 1973-74 he was Minister of Petroleum and Chemicals.

Rajiv Gandhi: Rajiv Gandhi was chosen as the prime minister of India and president Congress party after the death of Indira Gandhi. Rajiv held this postion for six years – till his assassination in 1991.

PV Narsimha Rao:  After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, PV Narsimha Rao took over the president of Congress in 1992. He served in the same position till 1996, at that time he was also holding the office of prime minister of India. Rao is credited for liberalising the Indian economy along with his Finance Minister Manmohan Singh,  who later served as the prime minister.

Sitaram Kesri: Kesri, described as ‘old man in hurry’ by rivals, held the position of Congress president between 1996-1998. He is known to serve as party treasurer for many years. Kesri also served as Union Cabinet Minister during the regimes of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and PV Narasimha Rao. He also presided over the Indian National Congress Session at Calcutta in 1997.

Sonia Gandhi: Sonia Gandhi took over as the President of the Indian National Congress in 1998. Sonia now stands as the longest serving President of the party, having served her party for almost 19 years now. She also serves as the Chairperson of the Coordinating Committee of the ruling coalition, the United Progressive Alliance.

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