As expected, party veteran Mallikarjun Kharge has been elected as the new Congress President after receiving 7,897 votes against rival Shashi Tharoor’s 1,072. It may be a small step forced upon the party by its present dismal condition, but it is certainly in the right direction. Even if Kharge will be ‘remote controlled’, he will still have considerable space to act on his own. As long as his actions do not challenge the Gandhi family’s hold over the party, he will be assured support in what he does. Even more importantly, he will be a fitting scapegoat for future electoral defeats, the blame for which till now has had to be borne by the family.
There is also now an ‘opposition’ within the party and many will wonder who the 1,072 were who thought Tharoor a better candidate than the one who had ‘official’ support. Hopefully, Tharoor will not lose heart and will continue with his campaign to turn the party into a genuine 21st century entity. It will also be possible for the Congress now to claim it has the inner democracy that the BJP has so long pilloried it for not practicing. Indeed, such is the euphoria after the election of a non-Gandhi to the top post after 22 years, that already the BJP is being challenged to have ‘such a transparent election’.
It would help if the process is continued down the line and heads of state and district units are similarly elected, rather than being appointees of the High Command. Also, if there are Tharoor like challengers at every level. And, while Rahul Gandhi has declared himself willing to perform the role given by the new President, it should hopefully come about that he does not need to make such a condescending declaration in the future – it should be a natural assumption.
Of course, all the change is not happening today or tomorrow, but it will set an example for all those that are part of other dynastic parties. If workers can be expected to face lathis, even bullets, while supporting their respective parties’ political agendas, they should have the right to rise to the topmost position and assume genuine leadership. Much will depend on how Kharge performs his role in the coming days.