Out of the shadow – India’s Congress Party appoints non-Gandhi president

India’s Congress Party has appointed its first president in 24 years who is not from the Gandhi dynasty, to reverse its collapse in popularity and take on the apparently unassailable BJP.

Octogenarian Mallikarjun Kharge, a flunky at the decadent court of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty which rules the party, defeated rival Shashi Tharo, a stripling at a mere 66 years of age, by almost 7,000 votes in a poll of 9,000 party delegates.

Out of the shadow - India’s Congress Party appoints non-Gandhi president | News by Thaiger
Tasked with appointing a young and charismatic leader to take on Modi, the Gandhi clan came up with 80 year old flunky Mallikarjun Kharge, who no one ever heard of before.

Tharoor, 66, was a diplomat at the United Nations for 20 years before returning to India and is not a member of the Gandhi inner circle.

Analysts say the election was an attempt by the Gandhi clan – matriarch Sonia, son Rahul and daughter Priyanka – to make the party look less dynastic rather than to effect any real change in leadership.

Modi relentlessly taunts the Congress Party as a family business. Political analyst Sanjay Kumar said…

“With a non-Gandhi as president, it will help blunt Modi’s barbs about a family-run party to some extent, particularly if Kharge can take some independent decisions without always running to the family.”

Sonia Gandhi was president until Rahul took the helm briefly in 2017 though he did not want the job.

In 2019, after losing his seat in a general election, Rahul resigned and his mother returned as president on a “temporary” basis. Ever since, the party has been in a mess with Rahul appearing to continue as a de facto leader while senior officials lack any confidence in him.

Out of the shadow - India’s Congress Party appoints non-Gandhi president | News by Thaiger
Sonia’s failing health makes it impossible for her to continue as president, and her children have shown themselves to be both unwilling and incompetent. It is imperative the party finds an energetic new leader to take on Modi.

Congress is no longer the awe-inspiring power that ruled India for decades. India has shifted to the right under Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The 137-year-old Congress Party is struggling to retain relevance but it is the only party with a national presence, and no coalition will work without it.

It seems hugely unlikely that Kharge has the will or ability to take on the BJP ideologically and excite party members and voters. Those who wanted a young, charismatic leader are dismayed. Apart from slumbering into his ninth decade, few Indians have ever heard his name.

Rahul is leading a protest march across India over the next five months to improve his credibility and take on Modi. Kharge’s other challenge is to unite a squabbling party.

A slip of the tongue by Rahul during a press conference in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday exposed what critics of the party said was in any case a pre-determined result given the family’s preference for Kharge. Asked what his future role in the party would be post-election, Rahul said “ask Kharge” several hours before the result was declared.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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