India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, is set to choose a non-family member as its next president as it struggles to recover ahead of the next key election.
Although historically led by the powerful Nehru-Gandhi family, Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi decided to bring a fresh face during a difficult time for the party, which has been plagued by landslide defeats in national elections. and state since the prime minister. Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party came to power in 2014.
Their choice fell on a trusted party leader: Mallikarjun Kharge from the southern state of Karnataka.
Mr. Kharge, an MP and former Minister of Railways, Labor and Employment, submitted his candidacy on Friday at the party headquarters in New Delhi. He will be challenged by Shashi Tharoor who spent nearly 30 years rising through the ranks at the United Nations before joining the Congress party in 2009.
If Mr. Kharge and Mr. Tharoor remain in the race after the October 8 deadline to withdraw nominations, 9,000 party delegates will vote on October 17 and the result will be announced on October 19.
The filing of nominations is a major step towards ending the party’s struggle to find a successor after dismal results in the 2019 national elections and the subsequent resignation of Mr Gandhi.
“I have tried to convince Rahul Gandhi to accept the party members‘ wish to assume the post of president, but he is sticking to his position that no one from the Gandhi family will be in the running this time” , said Ashok Gehlot, leader of the party. chief.
Mr Gandhi’s family has produced three of India’s 15 prime ministers since independence, starting with his great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru who served as the country’s first. Two of them – his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his father Rajiv Gandhi – were murdered. The party ruled India for over 60 years after India gained independence from British colonialists in 1947.
Mr. Modi, the current Prime Minister, denounced the dynastic policy of Congress. The party has been run by non-family members in the past, but Sonia and Rahul have been in charge of party affairs since 1998.
“Party chairman is a key post, but never more so than now after two general election defeats and an 18% voting base – half that of the ruling Hindu Nationalist Party,” said Mahesh Rangarajan, a professor of history and environmental studies at Ashoka. University. “Yet it is by far the biggest opposition party with a history of comebacks like in 1980, 1991 and 2004.”
“The focus is on who, but the crisis is all about ideas. It’s about how to combine bread butter politics with confronting the ruling party’s new nationalism,” Ms Rangarajan said.
Critics describe top leaders leaving the Congress party – including veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad, who announced his own political party in September – as a revolt against Nehru-Gandhi family rule.
In his resignation letter to Sonia, who served as the party’s acting president, Mr. Azad said that “the whole advisory mechanism was demolished by Rahul Gandhi when he took office as vice-president of the party. Congress in 2013”.
He lamented that “all the senior and experienced leaders were pushed aside and a new coterie of inexperienced sycophants began to manage party affairs”.
Mr Gandhi is on a 3,500 kilometer (2,185 mile) walking tour of Indian cities, towns and villages over the next five months as he tries to rejuvenate the party and win popular support ahead of two parliamentary elections state keys in Himachal. State of Pradesh and Mr. Modi’s home state of Gujarat. The results are likely to impact the country’s next national elections scheduled for 2024.
This story was reported by the Associated Press.