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Mallikarjun Kharge, the first non-Gandhi elected president of Congress in 24 years, formally takes over from Sonia today

Extensive preparations were made at Congress Headquarters, where senior party leader Mallikarjun Kharge will formally assume the presidency of the Congress today at a ceremony where Sonia Gandhi, the party’s interim chief, will present the election certificate and baton.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the first non-Gandhi to lead the Grand Old Party in 24 years, defeated Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor in a direct battle for the party’s top position after the Gandhis opted out of the race and after Ashok Gehlot also resigned. had withdrawn from the battle after a fiasco.

Prior to his takeover, Kharge visited former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence and spent some time with him.

Kharge paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi in Rajghat and will also visit memorials of former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, alongside former Deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram.

Security personnel and workers made last-minute appointments at the congressional president’s office and on the AICC headquarters lawns where a tent was being pitched.

Congressional Central Electoral Authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry will formally hand over the election certificate to Kharge during the function, who will also see the presence of outgoing chiefs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

Escape Blaze at 7 to Cong Chief at 80, Kharge’s firefighting continues | Son tells about journey

Mallikarjun Kharge, 80, who was elected on October 19 after Sitaram Kesari’s tenure (1996-1998) as the first non-Gandhi party leader, has lived through many successful seasons as a politician, but his struggle in life started at the tender age of seven. Kharge lost his mother and sister in a fire started by the Razakars or the private militia of the Nizam of Hyderabad, while narrowly escaping himself.

The tragic incident that took place in 1948 had not been disclosed until recently. Priyank Kharge told News18 how his father Mallikarjun and grandfather Mapanna survived the fire.

The Razakars had run amok, looting and attacking homes across the region, then known as the state of Hyderabad. Bhalki, in present-day Bidar district of Karnataka, was besieged along with several other villages as far as Maharashtra.

“My grandfather was working in the fields when a neighbor rushed to tell him that the Razakars had set fire to their tin-roofed house. The Razakars attacked every village in sight. They were a four lakh army and acted only because they had no leader. My grandfather rushed home, but could only save my father, who was within his arm’s reach. It was too late to save my grandmother and aunt who died in the tragedy,” Priyank said.

Challenges for Kharge

Kharge takes charge of the party at a time when it faces a tough challenge from a formidable BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has expelled Congress from many states.

For Kharge, who has served as Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha and later Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, the current assignment comes at a time when the party is electorally at an all-time low. is located. .

With Congress now in power in just two states – Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – alone and as a junior partner in Jharkhand, Kharge’s first challenge is to bring the party to power in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, which will be launched in the next few years. year to go to the polls. to soften.

Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh are on November 12. The dates for the polls in Gujarat are not yet known. In 2023, Kharge will face the arduous task of leading Congress in nine parliamentary elections, including in his home state of Karnataka, where he served as MLA for nine terms.

Kharge takes charge of Congress also at a time when the party is reeling from internal troubles and high-profile exits after a series of electoral debacles and has been reduced to a shadow of its former formidable self. Kharge started his career as the head of Gulbarga City Council and has also served as Minister of State and Lok Sabha Member of Parliament of Gulbarga (2009 and 2014).

Kharge also faces the challenge of restoring congressional primacy in the opposition space, implementing radical reforms the party promised Chintan Shivir in Udaipur in mid-May, and maintaining his independence despite insinuations that he is a Gandhi candidate and would seek their approval in all decisions. The last non-Gandhi congressman was Sitaram Kesri, who was unceremoniously removed in 1998, just after two years into his five-year term.

(with PTI inputs)

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