Several titans entered and exited and two were left standing at the end of nominations for the Congress president’s post on Friday. And then there was K N Tripathi.
The former Congress MLA and ex-minister from Jharkhand popped up out of nowhere to join the race, though no one is sure he will get very far.
Back in Jharkhand, about the only time Tripathi, 45, made news was during the 2019 Assembly elections, when as the Congress candidate from Daltonganj, he brandished guns after supporters of the BJP candidate allegedly surrounded him in Koshiyara village of the constituency.
Tripathi lodged a complaint saying BJP leader Alok Chaurasiya’s men were trying to stop him from entering booths where “rigging” was taking place, and that in the scuffle, his car’s window was damaged.
Not that it helped, for Tripathi lost for the third time from Daltonganj, by more than 21,000 votes. Chaurasiya won the seat for the third time.
The guns remain a social distinguisher for the leader though, as sources say Tripathi is among the few persons in Naxal-dominated Palamu district to have a licensed weapon which he is not required to mandatorily surrender before polls because of “threat perception” against him.
Having first become an MLA from Daltonganj in 2009, Tripathi had got lucky in 2014 by landing a ministry berth. Congress heavyweight Chandra Shekhar Dubey alias Dadai Dubey had been removed from the JMM-led Jharkhand Cabinet at the time following his constant attacks on Chief Minister Hemant Soren, paving the way for Tripathi to become the Minister of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Labour.
Talking to reporters in Delhi Friday, Tripathi said party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi have said that they won’t stop anyone from filing the nomination and that every Congress worker can contest for the top post. He called himself not just a farmer’s son but also Sonia’s son. “Kisan ka beta hone ki taraf se, Soniaji ka beta hone ki taraf se, yeh nirnay liya hai (As the son of a farmer, and as a son of Sonia, I have decided to fight for the top post. Having said that, whatever the party high command’s decision, I will follow).”
Sources in the Congress said it was not likely to come to that. “Tripathi needs at least 10 proposers to support his candidature from four states to be able to contest the election. I will be surprised if his nomination stands,” a source said.
According to the leader, far from being a heavyweight politician, Tripathi’s “declaration of being the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) president” was also dubious. “There is already a dispute between many factions of INTUC.”