Mallikarjun Kharge was elected as the new Congress president on Monday after he secured 7,897 out of the 9,385 votes polled. His rival, Shashi Tharoor, however sprung a surprise by securing 1,072 votes.
Mr. Kharge (80), the first non-Gandhi leader in 24 years to occupy the party’s top post, will take charge on October 26.
In the nearly 137-year-old history of the Congress, it was the sixth time that the party witnessed an electoral contest for the top post.
Outgoing Congress President Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Mr. Tharoor were among the leaders who visited Mr. Kharge’s residence to congratulate him.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to twitter to congratulate Mr. Kharge for his news responsibility and wished him a fruitful tenure.
“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,” tweeted former party chief Rahul Gandhi.
Making the formal announcement, Madhusudan Mistry, Chairman of the Central Election Authority, said: “As per the Article XVIII (D) of the constitution of the Indian National Congress, I, Madhusudan Mistry, hereby declare Shri Malliy Kharge as the President of the Indian National Congress”.
Mr. Mistry also announced that 416 votes were declared as invalid during the counting process.
Addressing a press conference, Mr Kharge thanked Ms Gandhi for reviving the party during her stint of over two decades and leading the party to form governments at the Centre twice and talked about working with Mr. Tharoor.
“No one is small or big and we have to all work like karyakartas (workers) to strengthen the organisation,” Mr. Kharge said, adding, “We have to together fight the threat to democracy and the Constitution. We have to fight the fascist forces that are attacking democracy and democratic institutions wearing the garb of communalism”.
The nearly 12% votes for Mr. Tharoor was not only impressive, considering that Mr. Kharge was seen as the “establishment candidate”, but also reflect the mood for change in within the Congress.
Conceding defeat and congratulating Mr. Kharge, Mr. Tharoor, in a statement, said,“I have always expressed the view that these elections, irrespective of the outcome, must ultimately strengthen the party. It gives me immense personal satisfaction that this has clearly been the case. Our democratic contest has galvanised vibrancy at all levels and has prompted a healthy and constructive discussion on change, which I believe will serve the party in good stead in the future”.
He and his election manager Salman Soz also sought to downplay reports about his team complaining about the unfairness of the polling process.
“In light of complaints from our UP team yesterday, we wrote to @INCIndia’s CEA immediately, a standard practice. Subsequent discussions with the CEA have assured us of a fair inquiry,” Mr. Soz tweeted.
“We have made a point by point response to those queries after preparing a report. This is an internal matter and I would not be making our report public,” Mr. Mistry told reporters.
Amid celebrations by Youth Congress Workers at the party headquarters, congratulatory messages poured in for the new party chief. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, General Secretary (organisation) K. C. Venugopal, Communication general secrertary Jairam Ramesh, senior leaders like Mukul Wasnik, Randeep Surjewala, Sachin Pilot were among those who congratulated new chief.
“Shri. Kharge’s victory in the Congress presidential election is a triumph for the forces who place ideological commitment over personal glory,” Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh tweeted.
“This is a victory of internal democracy in Congress,”added Mr. Surjewala.
Once Mr. Kharge formally takes over, the previous Congress Working Committee (CWC) will get dissolved and a Steering Committee will be formed until the next plenary or the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session where half of the CWC members are expected to be elected by the AICC delegates.