Change of guard at the Indian National Congress

ByManaksha Memon

A social worker devoted to social causes


October 29, 2022

Indian National Congress


Manaksha Memon describes a significant change

In an ominous development that may have a demonstration effect on the political composition of the region the leadership of the founding party of India was taken out of the hand of the Nehru-Gandhi family after 24 years. In modern times this change-over is the admission that the policy of depending on the charisma of the leading political family of India to guide the oldest Indian National Congress and political party is over.

Though it is the sixth time in the Indian National Congress’ nearly 137-year-old history that an electoral contest is deciding who would take up the mantle of the party’s president as successor to Sonia Gandhi it appears quite probable that this time round this change may be permanent. The current elections are considered historic as the new president would replace Sonia Gandhi.

Indian National Congress Party came into being in 1885 and its long history, the Nehru-Gandhi family has been at the helm of the party for about 40 years since the independence of India in 1947. The five family members to take on the mantle of the Congress president included Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi.

The last electoral contest for the top post of the party took place in 2000 when Jitendra Prasada suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Sonia Gandhi. He was replaced by Sonia Gandhi – widow of the late PM Rajiv Gandhi – who then served as the party president for 19 years. Her son Rahul Gandhi was elected unopposed in 2017, but he stepped down two years later owning responsibility for the party’s rout in the 2019 general elections. Since then, Mrs. Gandhi has been heading the party as the interim chief.

Indian National Congress And United Nations

Contesting the position, on the one side, there was 80-year-old Malikarjun Kharge, a grassroots politician and a hardcore loyalist of the Gandhi family and on the other was 66-year-old Shashi Tharoor – articulate, erudite, and suave – who was known for speaking his mind and joined the Congress in 2009 after a long stint at the United Nations.

Kharge, on his part, has highlighted his experience, coming up the organizational ranks over decades, and his ability to take everyone along. Both the leaders have emphasized that the Gandhis hold a special place in the party with Kharge saying that he would seek their guidance and suggestions and Tharoor asserting that no Congress president can function keeping a distance from the Gandhi family as their DNA runs in the party’s blood.

The contrast between both the candidates was very obvious and it was just not limited to their demeanor and thinking but also their backgrounds Kharge was born into a poor family in Varavatti in Bidar district and did his schooling and BA as well as Law in Gulbarga, Shashi Tharoor was born in London and has a phenomenal education background. Shashi Tharoor, who hails from the Nair community of Kerala, has studied at premier institutions in India and the US, including St Stephen’s College in Delhi and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Massachusetts.

New President Of Indian National Congress

Accordingly, Congress Party elected a veteran parliamentarian Malikarjun Kharge the new president of the party who is well-known as the Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist. Kharge is a grassroots politician and the first Dalit, people known as untouchables under India’s discriminatory caste system, to lead the party.

Kharge, a veteran politician, was born five years before independence and is widely believed to have the backing of both Sonia and Rahul. He now faces the mammoth challenge of winning the next national election, due in 2024, and three state elections next year. That includes his home state of Karnataka, where he personally has won 11 of the dozen elections he has contested during his long career in the Congress party.

A former federal minister, Malikarjun Kharge has announced plans to implement organizational reforms in the party, including 50% representation for those below 50 years at all levels. In his new role, the 80-year-old veteran will be expected to hit the ground running.

The next general elections are due in just a little over 18 months and experts say the Congress party needs reforms to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is pointed out that it will be his responsibility to provide leadership to the party as it faces its worst crisis structurally, organisationally, and even in terms of ideological leadership. The Weekender


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