Rahul Gandhi-led ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ entered Andhra Pradesh last evening.
Adoni, Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh):
Rahul Gandhi today referred to veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge as the new Congress president about half an hour before the result of the party election was announced and Mr Kharge was officially declared the winner.
“The new president will decide what my role will be,” he said to a question at Kulnoor, Andhra Pradesh, adding, “Ask Kharge ji and Sonia ji,” referring to Mallikarjun Kharge and interim chief Sonia Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi, who led the party’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ into Andhra Pradesh, was speaking to reporters before 1.30 pm, at a time when the counting was on. Results were not declared until around 2 pm.
Even before votes were cast on October 17 for the Congress to get its first non-Gandhi chief in over two decades, Mallikarjun Kharge, 80, was widely seen as a frontrunner — owing to his being the Gandhis’ choice — against Shashi Tharoor, 66.
“I can’t comment on the Congress president’s role, that’s for Mr Kharge to comment on,” Rahul Gandhi said when asked by at least twice about what the new president will do while he remains the face of the party. “I am very clear as far as my role is concerned. The president will decide what my role is and how I am to be deployed… that you have to ask Kharge ji and Sonia ji.”
He followed up, “The final authority in the Congress party is the Congress president. And we will have a new Congress president. And that gentleman will decide exactly how the party moves forward.”
Mallikarjun Kharge, 80, a veteran leader from Karnataka, expectedly won by a huge margin.
Losing candidate Shashi Tharoor, who later congratulated Mr Kharge, had said it was not a level-playing field and complained of irregularities in UP in a letter to the party poll panel chief, Madhusudan Mistry.
Shashi Tharoor cast his vote in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, the Lok Sabha constituency he represents.
Mr Tharoor later added that the complaint was an internal matter, saying that he would like to “move on” and that it was “unfortunate that a strictly internal letter’ was leaked.
It was soon after counting began that Mr Tharoor’s team alleged that there were “disturbing facts” in the election process in Uttar Pradesh and demanded that votes in the state be cancelled. But later Mr Tharoor and his poll agent Salman Soz said they had been “assured of a fair inquiry” and agreed that counting should continue.
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