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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat

India’s Congress Elects First Non-Gandhi Chief in 24 Years

Indian veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge - AFP

India's opposition Congress party declared veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge its new chief on Wednesday, the first person from outside the influential Nehru-Gandhi family to hold the beleaguered party's presidency in 24 years.

Kharge, 80, was elected by members to replace Sonia Gandhi as president of the once-mighty party that helped win India's independence 75 years ago, reports said.

"The most important issues facing the country right now is inflation, unemployment, a widening divide between the rich and poor and a growing environment of hatred spread by the ruling government," Kharge told reporters after his win.

Congress governed India for decades after independence from Britain in 1947, but lost two general elections and control of some state assemblies to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"This symbolic change of the president is a very powerful moment for the Congress," said Neelanjan Sircar, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research think tank.

"Its desire to change will have to reflect in organizational change on the ground."

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