80-year-old Mallikarjun Kharge, widely believed to be the “family-backed candidate” on Wednesday became the first non-Gandhi president after Sitaram Kesari’s tenure (1996-1998). He won a whopping 90 per cent of the votes cast, securing 7,897 votes. His opponent Shashi Tharoor finished with 1,072.
Outgoing Congress president Sonia Gandhi visited party chief-elect Mallikarjun Kharge at his residence soon after he was declared winner and congratulated him. She was accompanied by Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
While the results did not come as a surprise, there is disgruntlement in the Tharoor camp over how the elections were conducted – a charge that was largely refuted by prominent Congress leaders.
Addressing the media, Madhusudan Mistry, Chairman of the Congress Central Election Authority (CEA) said, “Kharge and Tharoor were the candidates for the Presidential post. Polling was held on October 17 and counting took place today.”
He said that the total votes polled were 9,385. Kharge got 7,897 votes and Tharoor got 1,072, while 416 votes were invalid.
He said, “As per Article 18 d of Constitution of Congress, I, Madhusudan Mistry, hereby declare Kharge as elected president of Congress.”
Kharge’s opponent Tharoor, who had flagged serious concerns about irregularities in the poll process in the state of Uttar Pradesh accepted his defeat on Twitter before the election results were officially declared. “It is a great honour and a huge responsibility to be President of Congress and I wish Khargeji all success in that task. It was a privilege to have received the support of over a thousand colleagues, and to carry the hopes and aspirations of so many well-wishers of Congress across India,” he tweeted.
Following the poll results, Congress headquarters in the national capital broke into celebrations with chants of “Rahul Gandhi zindabad.” The former Congress president and Wayanad MP, who is currently in Andhra Pradesh for his Bharat Jodo Yatra took questions from reporters on the outcome of the elections. Lauding the internal democracy in Congress, he said it was the only party in India to hold elections. When a reporter asked former Congress President Rahul Gandhi what his role in the party will be, he answered, “it is for Mr Kharge to decide my role”.
This was the sixth time that polling to elect Congress president took place.