NEW DELHI: The Congress on October 19 got the first leader from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to helm it, in more than two decades, as it elected former Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge as the party President. The 80-year-old veteran defeated diplomat-turned-politician Shashi Tharoor, his sole opponent.
Kharge, who will take over from interim President Sonia Gandhi on October 26, has an uphill task ahead and political observers are doubtful if he can come up to it. His first and foremost task will be to arrest the party’s downhill roll, if not revive it, before it faces the next Assembly elections next year and the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
Despite his amiability, his Dalit identity, his presence in politics for decades and the various offices that he has held, the Karnataka leader’s past report-card doesn’t have much to show off. The Congress lacks an organisation at the grassroots and the funds to oil a pan-India election machine; Kharge is unlikely to provide either. The Congress at the present juncture requires a shakeup but Kharge is considered to be a status-quoist. The party is also in need of a fighter and Kharge is not known for his aggression.
The worst is that Kharge is an ‘accidental’ Congress President who would not have been there but for Ashok Gehlot’s forced ouster. In these circumstances, he will do what he is expected to do – his every action would be guided by the wishes of the Gandhi Parivar.