Gandhi loyalist Mallikarjun Kharge new non-Gandhi Congress chief after rare presidential polls
For the first time in 24 years, the country's primary opposition party Congress found its non-Gandhi president in the form of 80-year-old Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka, Mallikarjun Kharge, who won the inner-party elections for the top post Wednesday.
Kharge, who is set to become the 98th Congress president succeeding parliamentarian Sonia Gandhi, won the elections over erudite Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor by a huge margin.
The president-elect has got 7,897 as opposed to Tharoor's mere 1,072, paving the way to become the second Dalit chief after Jagjivan Ram of the country's oldest political party.
Shashi Tharoor with Mallikarjun harge after vote counting | Image Credit: Twitter/Shashi Tharoor
Though the Tharoor camp very early in the morning implied the elections were not held with utmost perfection, Kharge's win was widely predicted in the contest, which was held last Monday.
Though Congress' outgoing president Sonia Gandhi, who held the reins of the party for the longest time in history, distanced herself from the poll process despite casting her vote, Kharge was widely speculated as a "proxy" candidate of the Gandhi family, which is the pivot of the outfit.
Shortly after winning the elections, Kharge, a former Union Minister who has equal proficiency in Hindi and English, gave a message for "unity" to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has led the Congress to the brink of elimination in the political map.
यहां न कोई बड़ा है न कोई छोटा, सब बराबर हैं। हमें देश के संविधान व लोकतंत्र पर हो रहे हमले के खिलाफ मिलकर लड़ना है।— Congress (@INCIndia) October 19, 2022
हम साथ मिलकर संगठन को मजबूत करेंगे और इन चुनौतियों से लड़ेंगे : श्री @kharge pic.twitter.com/e5OEBzCaE5
"We all have to work like workers of the party, nobody is big or small in the party.
"We have to unitedly fight against the fascist forces that are attacking the democratic institutions under the garb of communalism," Kharge, who has the record of winning assembly elections for nine consecutive times, said.
Tharoor, who had won in the 2019 General Elections unlike Kharge, was quick to congratulate the president-elect vowing to work together as a single unit.
"It is a great honour & a huge responsibility to be President of @INCIndia & I wish @Kharge ji all success in that task.
"It was a privilege to have received the support of over a thousand colleagues, & to carry the hopes & aspirations of so many well-wishers of Congress across India," Tharoor tweeted.
It is a great honour & a huge responsibility to be President of @INCIndia &I wish @Kharge ji all success in that task. It was a privilege to have received the support of over a thousand colleagues,& to carry the hopes& aspirations of so many well-wishers of Congress across India. pic.twitter.com/NistXfQGN1— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) October 19, 2022
Tharoor later called on Kharge, who will take charge of the party on Oct 26.
The congratulatory messages not just came from his party colleagues but from the opposition bench too.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the supreme leader of the BJP, tweeted, "My best wishes to Shri Mallikarjun Kharge Ji for his new responsibility as President of @INCIndia. May he have a fruitful tenure ahead."
Cutting across the congratulatory messages, Kharge is aware of the immediate challenges which will come from the Prime Minister's homestate Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, which are going to assembly elections soon.
Along with challenging the BJP, Kharge's Congress in Gujarat will have to fight out the spirited Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which uninstalled the oldest party from Punjab earlier this year.
While Himachal is going to polls in November, Gujarat's election dates are due to be announced by the poll body.
Kharge's Congress will undoubtedly look to corner the Modi government over falling values of rupee, economic mismanagement, alleged communalism that have remained the sticky ground for the BJP government.