Image description

Mallikarjun Kharge, a Rajya Sabha member and longtime supporter of the Gandhi family, won the race for president of the Congress on Wednesday. He now leads a party that is in desperate need of dramatic reforms to boost its support ahead of important state elections and the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The 80-year-old Karnataka statesman Kharge, widely regarded as the Gandhi family's choice for the position, received the biggest vote percentage of any non-Gandhi contender with 84.1%, or 7,897 of the 9,385 cast. He defeated former Union minister Shashi Tharoor, who received 1,072 votes or 11.4% of the vote, exceeding expectations. 416 votes in all (4.4%) were ruled illegal.

On October 26, Kharge, the newly elected president of the Congress, would assume office as the party's first non-Gandhi leader in 24 years. Sonia Gandhi, the party's longest-serving leader, will be succeeded by him.

The outcomes bring to an end a turbulent process that started as an effort to revitalise the party's grassroots network but was upended by an unparalleled uprising in Rajasthan. The nomination of Kharge, who only entered the race on the final day of nominations, eventually sparked rumours that, despite the Gandhis' assurances of neutrality, the veteran leader was actually the establishment's choice and that the election was a missed opportunity to bring about structural change.