Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday met Sonia Gandhi and expressed his intention to contest the upcoming AICC chief polls, while the Congress president conveyed that she would stay "neutral" in the elections, sources said.
Gandhi welcomed the idea of more people contesting the polls and dispelled the notion that there would be an "official candidate", they said.
The feedback by Gandhi on Tharoor's desire to contest is being seen by many as an encouragement to him to contest and he could announce his candidature in the next few days.
With regard to Tharoor's meeting with Gandhi and the speculation over it, the Congress said no one needs a nod to contest the presidential election as it is an open, democratic and transparent process.
"Anybody who wants to contest is free and welcome to do so. This has been the consistent position of Congress president and Shri Rahul Gandhi. This is an open, democratic and transparent process. Nobody needs anybody's nod to contest," AICC general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said.
Adding to the buzz over the possibility of his contesting Congress president polls, Tharoor met Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence in New Delhi. He, however, refused to divulge any details about the meeting.
Tharoor, who was among the group of 23 leaders who had written to Gandhi in 2020 demanding organisational overhaul, also endorsed a petition on Monday by a group of young party members seeking "constructive reforms".
The petition shared by Tharoor on Twitter sought reforms and a pledge by AICC president candidates to implement the Udaipur Declaration in entirety if elected. The former Union minister said it had been signed by over 650 people so far.
"I welcome this petition that is being circulated by a group of young @INCIndia members, seeking constructive reforms in the Party. It has gathered over 650 signatures so far. I am happy to endorse it & to go beyond it," Tharoor tweeted with screenshots of the petition.
The petition that Tharoor endorsed said, "We are members of the Congress party with a desire to strengthen the party to reflect the hopes and aspirations of our nation."
The petition stated some of the tenets of the Udaipur Declaration that was made on May 15, 2022, after the party's brainstorming session.
"We appeal to each candidate in the election for the president of the All India Congress Committee to undertake a public pledge to involve party members from block committees up to the CWC and implement the Udaipur Declaration in entirety within the first 100 days of assuming office," the petition said.
In its declaration, the Congress had announced wide-ranging organisational reforms to make the party battle ready for the next round of assembly and Lok Sabha polls, stressing on wider representation to those under 50 years of age and enforcing 'one person, one post' and 'one family, one ticket' rules with riders.
Asked about the possibility of him running for the post of the Congress president, Tharoor had told PTI earlier this month, "I have only welcomed the fact that an election will be held. I believe that is very good for the party."
"Of course it is gratifying that this general statement of democratic principle has immediately led to large numbers of people around the country welcoming the prospect of my contesting. But as I have made it clear, I have not declared my candidacy," Tharoor had said.
"I hope many will contest in order to give the membership a wide choice. So far I have neither ruled myself in nor ruled myself out," the former Union minister had asserted.
Meanwhile, the 'Make Rahul Gandhi AICC president again' chorus is growing louder in the Congress with over half a dozen state units so far seeking his elevation to the top post, even as uncertainty and suspense persisted over whether he would take on the mantle.
After Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat units of the Congress demanded that Gandhi be made party chief, the party's Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and Mumbai units passed resolutions calling for his elevation to the post of president on Monday.
The process for filing nominations for the election will be held from September 24 to 30. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is October 8 and the election, if required, will be held on October 17. The results will be out on October 19.