Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor and Mallikarjun Kharge on Friday filed their nominations to contest the party’s presidential polls scheduled to be held next month.

Ten Congress leaders – AK Antony, Ashok Gehlot, Ambika Soni, Mukul Wasnik, Anand Sharma, Abhishek Singhvi, Ajay Maken, Bhupinder Hooda, Digvijaya Singh and Tariq Anwar – signed as proposers for Kharge’s, according to ANI.

Gehlot and Singh had earlier said they would contest the election, but later withdrew from the race. Kharge, who is also the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, filed his nomination in the afternoon.

Earlier on Friday, Tharoor submitted his papers to the party’s central election authority chairperson Madhusudan Mistry at his office in the Congress headquarters in New Delhi. Congress MP Karti Chidambaram is among the proposers for his candidature.

Speaking to reporters, Tharoor welcomed Kharge’s nomination and said that having more number of candidates would benefit the party, ANI reported.

“I won’t pull out of [the election] as I won’t let down workers from around the country who have gone out of their ways to extend their support to me,” Tharoor told reporters.

Besides Tharoor, Jharkhand Congress leader KN Tripathi has also filed his nomination to contest the poll.

The election to decide the successor to the longest-serving party president Sonia Gandhi will take place on October 17 and the results will be announced two days later. The last date to file nominations is Friday.

Earlier today, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge also announced his candidature for the party’s presidential poll, PTI reported.

Soon after Kharge’s announcement, Digvijaya Singh, who on Thursday had said that he will contest the poll, retracted his nomination. He announced that he will support Kharge.

Last week, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also said that he will be contesting for the Congress president’s post. However, on Thursday, he said he was out of the race.

Gehlot made the statement after meeting Sonia Gandhi in Delhi. He told reporters that he has apologised to her after Rajasthan Congress MLAs defied the central observers by not attending a legislature party meeting in Jaipur on Sunday.

The legislators had instead held another meeting and several of them loyal to Gehlot tendered their resignations, pushing the party into a crisis.

The MLAs had boycotted the meeting called to pass a resolution empowering the party president to pick Gehlot’s successor amid speculation that Sachin Pilot could be appointed the next chief minister.

Gehlot on Friday told reporters that all senior leaders had decided to support Kharge for the party chief’s election. He stated that Kharge was an experienced leader and had won elections 10-12 times.

Gandhi family is not backing anyone: Shashi Tharoor

Meanwhile, Tharoor on Friday said that the Gandhi family is not backing anyone in the election to choose the next party president, PTI reported.

“It has been repeatedly stressed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra that the family welcomes these elections and that they would like to see a diverse field of candidates,” Tharoor told PTI in an interview. “They are neither directly nor indirectly backing any one candidate.”

He said that the Gandhi family remains the foundational pillar of the Congress and are the “moral conscience and ultimate guiding spirit” for party members.

“They [Gandhi family] cannot and must not withdraw from that role, whatever the formal designations they choose to retain,” Tharoor said.

Tharoor told PTI that whosoever is elected as the leader of the Congress must develop and implement a roadmap for the party in the coming elections.

“The party has to appeal to those who did not vote for it in those two elections and drifted away to the BJP, most of whom did so for reasons other than Hindutva,” he said.