Kharge becomes first non-Gandhi Congress President in over 2 decades
Veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge was elected as the new president of the Congress party on Wednesday, the first non-Gandhi to lead the party in 24 years. The former Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Rajya Sabha, Kharge was in the race against Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor. Kharge amassed around 7,000 votes as compared to Tharoor receiving only around 1,000 votes.
Why does this story matter?
- Notably, this was Congress's sixth presidential election since independence. However, it wasn't without reluctance.
- Sonia Gandhi was repeatedly persuaded to return as interim president in 2019 after Rahul Gandhi quit the post following electoral defeats.
- The 137-year-old party, meanwhile, faced a string of losses in state elections leading to calls for reforming party's functioning.
Tharoor congratulates Kharge on win
Both maintained there was no official candidate
As counting commenced, Tharoor's election agent Salman Soz alleged irregularities in the election process. Although Tharoor in unison with Kharge reiterated that the Gandhis were neutral regarding both candidates, he nevertheless mentioned preferential treatment from other party leaders. Considered a Gandhi loyalist, Kharge has worked his way to the top brass of the party. He started from the grassroots level over 50 years ago.
Status quo v/s reform
Evidently, Tharoor projected himself as a "young" face for the post while calling for an organizational overhaul and had termed Kharge as the reinforcer of the status quo. He even offered to publicly debate Kharge. While Kharge (80) earlier said he didn't want to be compared to Tharoor, many Congress stalwarts have backed him owing to his vast and varied experience.
Will seek guidance from Gandhis: Kharge
Kharge trashed speculations of being the "official" candidate, saying the perception of a proxy party chief endorsed by the Gandhis was perpetuated by the media. He added that he might not consult the Gandhis on every decision but had no qualms about seeking their "guidance" and suggestions as they have experience in leading the party, and he believed in a collective approach.
Gehlot's bid and Rajasthan debacle
To recall, the party saw many ups and downs during the nomination phase of the election. Considered a favorite earlier, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot tried to pitch his name for the top post. Sachin Pilot emerged as the CM face to replace Gehlot, but his loyalists raised hell forcing him to pull out of the contest following a political crisis within the state.
Digvijaya Singh withdrew nomination for Kharge
Digvijaya Singh had also decided to run for the elections, but later, retracted as Kharge's name was floated. He said he opted out to make way for his "senior." Another leader KN Tripathi had also filed nomination but was rejected as his form was incomplete.