New Delhi, Oct 19 (EFE).- India’s main opposition party Indian National Congress on Wednesday elected Mallikarjun Kharge as its new president, ending 24 years of direct leadership by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, even though the president-elect is considered close to the powerful political family.
Kharge (b. 1942), is from the marginalized Dalit community and received as many as 7,897 votes out of the over 9,000 delegates eligible to elect the president of the party that led India’s independence struggle to its culmination in 1947.
The veteran leader, who hails from the southern state of Karnataka, was the favorite to succeed the Gandhi family as the president, being seen as the dynasty’s candidate.
After the result was announced on Wednesday, dozens of supporters gathered outside Congress headquarters in New Delhi to celebrate Kharge’s victory with music, firecrackers and massive banners displaying the faces of Gandhi family leaders.
The new president will “help Congress become stronger” as he will be “seen as a good leader who will eliminate the disparities between leader and workers,” Congress activist Jagdish Sharma told EFE.
Kharge’s only opponent Shahi Tharoor, an intellectual stalwart from the southern state of Kerala, congratulated the new president on his victory.
“Our new president is a party colleague and senior who brings ample leadership and experience to the table. Under his leadership, I am confident that we can all collectively take the party to new heights,” Tharoor said in a statement.
Kharge has been a powerful figure in the party for years, having served as the central minister for railways as well as labor and employment during the government of ex-prime minister Manmohan Singh (2004-2014).
He also served as the leader of opposition in the upper house of the Indian parliament until this month.
Kharge faces the challenge of reviving a party which is going through its worst decline in decades after successive electoral defeats as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party registered a landslide victory in 2014 and repeated the feat in 2019.
The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty began leading the Congress with the first prime minister of independent India – Jawaharlal Nehru – who was followed in power by his daughter Indira Gandhi.
After Indira’s assassination in 1984, her son Rajiv rose to prominence, before his own assassination in a suicide bombing in 1991.
The violent deaths of the leaders have resulted in Rajiv’s wife, Italy-born Sonia Gandhi – who led the party for over two decades – and her son Rahul Gandhi living under strict security measures.
The internal elections were necessitated after in 2019, Rahul resigned from the party presidency due to the defeat in the 2019 general elections, and his mother was forced to step in as the president until a new leadership was appointed. EFE