NEW DELHI: According to the latest reports from India, where the opposition Congress party elected veteran statesman Mallikarjun Kharge as its new leader on Wednesday, making him the first non-member of the powerful Nehru-Gandhi family to serve as the party’s president in 24 years.
The Congress wants to turn around its sagging fortunes with a new leader after losing two general elections and control of certain state assemblies to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The election for the position was held on Monday (BJP).
The BJP, which has a hard-right, nationalist posture, seems to be in a solid position to win a third consecutive term in a general election that is scheduled for 2024 despite the shift at the top of the Congress.
Remember that the 137-year-old Congress has long fought for a secular government. The Congress party and the Muslim league largely helped gain India’s independence from colonial power Britain and thereafter ruled politics for decades.
Kharge, an 80-year-old member of the lowest caste in India, is regarded as a Gandhi family supporter. He defeated Shashi Tharoor, a former UN official, by a landslide in the party vote.
Neelanjan Sircar, a senior fellow at the think tank Centre for Policy Research, said the party has taken a big stride forward with the shift at the top.
For the Congress, “this symbolic shift of the president is a very dramatic occasion,” Sircar added.
Its will to change must manifest itself in actual organisational transformation.
Senior party members who were dissatisfied with how the party was operating under interim president Sonia Gandhi, who took over after her son, Rahul Gandhi, resigned following the party’s defeat to the BJP in a 2019 general election, had raised concerns recently.
Just before the party election results were released, Rahul Gandhi assured reporters that the new leader will be in charge.
“In the Congress party, the president is the highest authority, and all members answer to him or her.”