Mallikarjun Kharge takes over as Congress President
New Delhi, October 26, 2022
Mallikarjun Kharge today took over as the Congress President, becoming the first person from outside the Gandhi family to head the grand old party in 24 years.
Kharge, 80, succeeded Sonia Gandhi who has led the party for more than two decades over two terms -- the longest tenure held by anyone in that position.
Sonia Gandhi held the position of Congress President from March 14, 1998 to December 16, 2017 and again from August 10, 2019 till today. In between, her son Rahul Gandhi held the position for a little less than two years.
Voting in the election for the post was held on October 17 and votes were counted on October 19. Kharge had got 7,897 of the 9,385 votes cast by delegates and Shashi Tharoor, the only other candidate in the fray, polled 1,072 votes. As many as 416 votes were found to be invalid.
Before the ceremony at the party headquarters this morning where he was handed over the certificate of election by Madhusudhan Mistry, the head of its Central Election Authority and the returning officer, Kharge visited and offered tributes at Rajghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, as well as Shakti Sthal and Samta Sthal, the memorials to Indira Gandhi and Jagjivan Ram.
Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi as well as several other leaders of the party were present at the function.
Speaking on the occasion, Kharge hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), accusing them of "attempting to replace Baba Saheb Ambedkar's Constitution with the Sangh Constitution". But he said the Congress would not let it happen.
He alleged that the "New India" is a place where the youth had no jobs, farmers are being crushed under vehicles, violence against women was increasing and the perpetrators of such violence were being honoured.
Kharge said the crores of youth who wished to rise above religious, caste and gender divides and who wished for peace, employment and development were the hope of both the nation and the Congress party.
Kharge urged Congress leaders and workers to stop being afraid. He said that when Congressmen get rid of their fears, they can bring down the strongest of regimes.
He urged all people who wanted to save democracy to come together. He said the interests of the nation would be best served by if they all came together.
He said he was confident that the party would succeed in bringing down the structure built by lies and hatred.
He recalled that, under Sonia Gandhi's leadership, the party had come to power twice at the Centre and the government led by it had undertaken many programmes for the welfare of the common man, including the MGNREGA, Food Security, Right to Education and forest rights.
He also praised Rahul Gandhi for brushing aside all difficulties and undertaking the 3600-km 150-day Kanyakumari-Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra. He said Rahul Gandhi was meeting people from all sections of society as well as representatives of various organisations and understanding their pain and suffering.
Kharge promised to work hard to restore the past glory of the party
He said that it was an emotional moment for him, the son of an ordinary mill worker, who had started his political career as a Congress block committee president way back in the 1960s, to take over as the Congress President today.
Earlier, Sonia Gandhi thanked all leaders and members of the party for the love, affection and respect they had shown her over the years. "I will remember this till my last breath," she said.
She said the Congress faced several challenges today, the biggest of which was the fall in democratic values in the country, and the party must find a way of fighting this crisis.
Later, all the members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), general secretaries and in-charges tendered their resignations.
The new president will announce his team soon while elections will be held to elect 12 members of the new CWC.
"All the CWC Members, AICC General Secretaries and Incharges have tendered their resignation to Hon'ble Congress President," K. C. Venugopal, party general secretary (organisation), said on Twitter.
The last election for the post of Congress President was held in 2017, which Rahul Gandhi had won unanimously, whereas the last contested election was held in 2000, when Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasada by a huge margin. In 2019, after Rahul Gandhi resigned from the position, the party asked Sonia Gandhi to take over as interim President till the process of the election of the new president was completed.
Born on July 21, 1942, Kharge has a B. A. from the Government Arts and Science College and an LL.B. from the S. S. L. Law College, both in Gulbarga, Karnataka.
He began his career in politics as the president of the Gulbarga City Congress in 1969, after some years in student politics. He was elected to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly nine times between 1972 and 2009 and has served as Minister in the State Government under various Chief Ministers during this period.
He served as President of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee from 2005 to 2008.
Kharge was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009 and re-elected in 2014. He served as Union Minister for Labour and Employment and later the Minister for Railways as well as Social Justice and Empowerment in then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Cabinet.
During May 2014-2019, he served as Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha.
In June 2020, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha and became the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.