NEW DELHI (AP) – India’s main opposition Congress party elected Mallikarjun Kharge as its new president yesterday in a contest in which the Nehru-Gandhi family, which has led the party for more than two decades, did not compete.
The party, which has long touted its secular politics, has struggled to regain support since being routed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014.
Kharge, 80, from the southern state of Karnataka, was backed by the party’s top leaders.
His challenger, Shashi Tharoor, 66, spent nearly 30 years at the United Nations (UN) before joining the Congress party in 2009.
Kharge received more than 80 per cent of the votes, local media reported.
Interim party President Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul Gandhi, announced last month that no one from the family would seek the party’s leadership at this time.
Their decision to bring in a new leader ahead of key upcoming elections reflects the party’s need to shed its image as a family dynasty, analysts said. Since Modi came to power, the Congress has suffered crushing defeats in a slew of national and state polls. Rahul Gandhi resigned as party president after dismal results in 2019 national elections.