India's Congress Party Elects First Non-Gandhi President in Decades

India's opposition Congress party has elected former minister Mallikarjun Kharge as its first president in 24 years not to come from the Gandhi dynasty. The move has been perceived as an attempt to reverse the party's electoral decline.

India's Congress Party Elects First Non-Gandhi President in Decades
Image credit: Aditya Raj / Unsplash

Facts

  • India's opposition Congress party has elected former minister Mallikarjun Kharge as its first president in 24 years not to come from the Gandhi dynasty. The move has been perceived as an attempt to reverse the party's electoral decline.
  • Considered the "establishment candidate" of Monday's election, Kharge secured 7,897 out of the 9,385 votes cast, and is set to take charge on Oct. 26. His rival, Shashi Tharoor, received over 1K votes — an impressive result that reportedly indicated a mood for change within the Congress.
  • Tharoor congratulated Kharge after the results were declared on Wednesday and wished him success in the task of presiding over the Congress party. The sentiment came despite Tharoor's prior complaints to the party's election authority that senior leaders were urging delegates to vote for Kharge.
  • The Indian National Congress played a major part in helping the country gain independence from the UK in 1947 and has held onto power in the decades since, mostly through the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. However, the party has lost two straight general elections to PM Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • The Gandhi family has no relation to the country's independence icon Mahatma Gandhi but is descended from India's first PM Jawaharlal Nehru. Outgoing Congress Pres. Sonia Gandhi has been in charge since 2019 following the resignation of her son, Rahul Gandhi.
  • The 80-year-old Kharge now has less than two years to prepare the party for the national elections in 2024, his first challenge being the polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat over the coming months.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Hindu, ABC, DW, Alarabiya, and Hindustan Times.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by News 18. With the election of Kharge, the Congress has lost its last hope of recovery. Despite wanting to appear reformist by moving away from a history of nepotism, the party has selected an arch sycophant and loyalist. This decision demonstrates that the Congress is more concerned with maintaining the interests of the Gandhi dynasty than invigorating Indian democracy by posing a real electoral challenge to the BJP.
  • Narrative B, as provided by The Wire. While it's true that Kharge will have to face several tough challenges as president of the Congress party — including the need to unite different party factions before the 2024 elections — his political experience indicates that he's the ideal person for the role. Kharge's life experience as part of the Dalit (formerly 'untouchable') community and his ideological pluralism will complement the Gandhi family's leadership and reinvigorate the Congress — he's the right person to fight the BJP.

Predictions