The veteran leader of India’s main opposition Indian National Congress party Mallikarjun Kharge was elected as the party’s new president, according to the results announced on Wednesday.
It is the first time in 24 years that the Congress has picked a new leader who is not a member of the powerful Gandhi family.
About 9,000 party delegates from across the country voted on Monday to elect a new president of the party.
According to the final results, Kharge received the votes of 7,897 delegates, while senior leader Shashi Tharoor, a lawmaker from southern India and former top UN official, received 1,072 votes. While, Madhusudan Mistry, chairman of the party’s Central Election Authority, declared 416 votes invalid.
Outside the party office in the national capital New Delhi, workers celebrated the victory of the top leader.
Kharge, 80, from the southern state of Karnataka, is the most prominent Dalit face of the party and is known to be very close to the Gandhi family.
The caste system in India divides Hindus into four main groups – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. Outside of this are the Dalits, also known as untouchables.
Kharge won several assembly elections after entering electoral politics in 1972.
In 2009, he moved to national politics and was elected to the Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament, for the first time. After serving as a federal minister during the Congress government, the leader was appointed leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha (upper house) in February 2021.
Tharoor, who conceded defeat in a statement, stated that the” revival of our party has truly begun today.”
Earlier, during the counting, Tharoor’s team leveled charges of “serious irregularities” in the election process in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress party is the country’s oldest party, having been founded in 1885 as the first modern nationalist and secular movement in South Asia.
In the last party election held in 2000, Sonia Gandhi was elected as the president. But in 2017, she resigned and her son Rahul Gandhi took her place. He did, however, resign in July 2019 as a result of the party’s poor performance in that year’s general elections.
The powerful Gandhi family has produced four prime ministers and largely ruled the country since its independence in 1947. The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party has been criticizing the Congress for its dynastic politics.
In recent years, the party has been defeated in a number of state elections. While several senior leaders have resigned from the party in recent months, the crisis has worsened.
However, Rahul Gandhi’s foot march from the south to the north of India has raised hopes for the party’s revival.