Shashi Tharoor and Mallikarjun Kharge will compete against each other in the election for the post of the Congress president, according to the final list released by the party.

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 was Friday.

Besides Tharoor and Kharge, Jharkhand Congress leader KN Tripathi had also filed his nomination to contest the poll. However, his nomination was rejected, said Madhusudan Mistry, Congress central election authority chairperson, PTI reported.

“Two candidates – Kharge and Tharoor – are in a direct contest now,” Mistry said.

These candidates can withdraw their forms till October 8. The polling will be held if Kharge and Tharoor retain their candidature. More than 9,000 Congress delegates will vote for the next chief.

After the candidates were declared, Tharoor said he was delighted to learn that he will compete against Kharge. “May the Party and all our colleagues benefit from this democratic process!” he added.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge resigned as the leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha soon after he filed his nomination for party president poll on September 30, NDTV reported on Saturday.

In his letter to the Congress’s interim chief Sonia Gandhi, he said he is quitting the post in line with the party’s “one person, one post”. He sent the letter to Gandhi last night.

Senior leaders P Chidambaram and Digvijaya Singh are in the race to become the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha.

Controversial race to the polls

Last week, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also said that he will contest 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 had 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.