If there was one candidate that the Gandhis were really worried about — it was former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijay Singh. His entry enthused party cadres in north India. Many partymen were hoping Singh would move in as party chief and energise the moribund organisation. It was in this backdrop that the Gandhis adopted a strategy to stop Singh from filing his papers. They endorsed 80-year old Mallikarjun Kharge, a Dalit leader from North Karnataka, as their candidate. After a late-night meeting, AICC general secretary KC Venugopal conveyed to Kharge that the party leadership wanted him to contest. Entry of Kharge was enough to persuade Singh to withdraw from the fray. It is significant that Sonia Gandhi did not opt for younger Dalit leaders such as Kumari Selja or Mukul Wasnik who are in their 60s. Besides, Sonia opted to endorse Kharge on the day Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra entered Karnataka. Immediately BJP spokesperson Amit Malviya tweeted that Kharge at 80 is an inspiring choice to be party chief…He should just pick Dr Manmohan Singh’s manual on “Living by the Remote Control” and it is all sorted”. Was Kharge chosen because the Karnataka assembly elections are scheduled early next year? Possibly. Kharge will resign as LoP in Rajya Sabha. Will Divijay Singh succeed him? Shashi Tharoor files his papers, vows to remain in fray but party hopes he may finally withdraw.