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With nearly 8K votes, Kharge defeats Tharoor, crowned the new Congress President

Kharge was leading from the beginning but the number of votes Tharoor gathered surprised both the Kharge and Tharoor camps
Last Updated : 19 October 2022, 17:33 IST

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Mallikarjun Kharge was on Wednesday declared as the new Congress president, the first non-Gandhi to assume the post in the last 24 years and the second Dalit to assume the top post in the 137-year-old party after he defeated his rival, Shashi Tharoor, in the election by an overwhelming 6,825 votes.

The second leader from Karnataka to assume the post after S Nijalingappa, the 80-year-old veteran garnered 7,897 votes or 84.14% of 9,385 votes polled on October 17 as against Tharoor who bagged a respectable 1,072 votes (11.42%) considering the odds he was against. Another 416 votes were declared invalid.

A number of party workers had gathered at the Congress headquarters here as the counting progressed. Kharge was leading from the beginning but the number of votes Tharoor gathered surprised both the Kharge and Tharoor camps. While Kharge camp was expecting that the rival could get up to 300 votes, Tharoor camp expected 500-800 votes but ended up getting over 1,000 votes, increasing his standing in the party.

Kharge's first public appearance as the president-elect is likely to be in Karnataka's Raichur on October 22 when he joins the Bharat Jodo Yatra there. Kharge will formally take charge on October 26.

A staunch Gandhi family loyalist, Kharge will have the onerous task of reviving the organisation that has been witnessing an electoral slum since 2014 and getting it battle-ready for the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi as well as several other senior leaders went to the president-elect's residence to congratulate him.

Kharge will be the third Dalit president for the party after, Damodaram Sanjeevaiah in 1962 and Jagjivan Ram in 1969. Interestingly, it was the same year (1969) Jagjivan Ram became party chief and Kharge joined Congress and became the president of Gulbarga City Congress Committee president.

He went on to become a nine-term MLA, two-term Lok Sabha MP, a former Union Minister, currently a Rajya Sabha MP and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha besides holding several organisational posts, including Karnataka Congress president.

One of the biggest challenges for Kharge will be to shrug off charges of being "remote-controlled". However, Rahul told reporters in Andhra Pradesh that the Congress president is "supreme authority" and would decide on the way forward for the party and his role.

"The Congress President represents a democratic vision of India. His vast experience and ideological commitment will serve the party well as he takes on this historic responsibility," Rahul said on Twitter.

Kharge was a late entrant in the election after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot bowed out of the race following rebellion by MLAs supporting him against the plan to install his bete noir Sachin Pilot as his successor. The Gandhis then turned to the veteran leader who had missed Chief Ministership of Karnataka at least thrice since 1998 but never rebelled or created trouble for the party.

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Published 19 October 2022, 08:17 IST

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