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Mallikarjun Kharge’s long list of challenges as he takes charge of Sonia Gandhi’s Congress


Mallikarjun Kharge with Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi at the party leadership ceremony.

New Delhi:

Elections in two states this year, challenges for the two remaining Congress governments next year, then the 2024 fight to stop another Modi sweep – Mallikarjun Kharge got more than just a party certificate by becoming officially President of Congress today. And the 80-year-old was quick to announce a youthful path.

“We have decided in ‘Chintan Shivir’ of Udaipur to reserve 50% of party positions for under 50s. We will move forward with this with the support of all of you,” he said. after taking over, speaking in Hindi.

“We will defeat those who spread hatred,” he said, pointing to the ruling BJP and its parent body RSS as “those who want to divide India.”

The Karnataka veteran, who beat Shashi Tharoor, 66, in a rather turbulent election last week, replaced Sonia Gandhi, 75, and cited her policies as worth following. “It was in January 1998, in Bangalore, when Sonia-i at her first public rally, said she was taking her first lessons in politics in Karnataka. His policy has been one of sacrifice – above self-interest and the pursuit of power.”

“Now our country is experiencing a politics of lies and deceit. Attempts are being made today to change the democratic system established by Congress. But the ideology of Congress is based on the Constitution of India, and it is time for the save,” he said.

Mallikarjun Kharge is the first Congress leader outside the Gandhi family in 24 years, while Rahul Gandhi, who was at the ceremony, remains the face of the party – a reason Mr Kharge faces the charge of ‘buffering “.

“I have risen from just a local worker to Congress. I thank you all for making me, a worker’s son, president,” Mr. Kharge said, adding: “Congress is the only party which has an internal democracy, and my election proves it.”

On Rahul Gandhi, he said the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ he leads from Kanyakumari in Kashmir is a historic move to carry the party’s message to the grassroots. “Congress has done a lot of good things,” he said, citing the Food Security Act, the MNREGA job guarantee program and the right to education. “People are not happy with us despite this.”

“Raoul i speak directly to people. It brings together people who may not be officially with us, but who want an India that is not divided. It is my duty to push this agenda forward,” he added.

Mr. Kharge presented “consensus and consultation” as his leadership strategy. He met former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his home yesterday. This morning he paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at his memorial, Rajghat.

He also visited the memorials of former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, in addition to former Deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram, who was the first Dalit leader in Congress; Mr. Kharge is the second.

Himalayan task

In just over two weeks, Congress hopes voters in Himachal Pradesh will continue their pendulum pattern to bring him back to power after five years of BJP rule. The Hills State votes on November 12.

Another election in the same time frame – exact dates expected – is in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, where Congress has waged an admittedly low-key campaign as its hopes of toppling the BJP are not visibly dimmed. students.

Mr Kharge said workers at pit level hold the key to victories.

Hold on

In 2023, a bigger test awaits Mr. Kharge. The year will see nine assembly elections, including in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the only two states where Congress has chief ministers.

The year will also see the culmination of Rahul Gandhi’s five-month “Bharat Jodo Yatra”, the march the party hopes will help him prevent the BJP from another sweep, in the 2024 general election.

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Mr Kharge is known not to have lost an election except the 2019 Lok Sabha contest since he entered the fray in 1969. After the 2019 defeat, Sonia Gandhi brought Mr Kharge to the Rajya Sabha and in February 2021 made him the Leader of the Opposition. He served as Congress Leader in Lok Sabha, as well as being a key player in Karnataka since the 1970s.

The same old or the new?

The last non-Gandhi Congress president was Sitaram Kesri, who was removed from office in 1998 just after two years of his five-year term when Sonia Gandhi finally agreed to come forward.

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Outside the immediate electoral arena, Mr. Kharge also faces the challenge of restoring party primacy in opposition space, as regional parties find it unworthy to concede space to a reduced Congress.

Within the party, he can implement the reforms promised at the “Chintan Shivir” Congress in Udaipur if he wants to be seen as the face of something new. All of this is met with innuendo which wouldn’t change much as he is a candidate for the Gandhis.

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