Rahul Gandhi names before poll results out

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Rahul Gandhi was speaking to reporters in Andhra Pradesh during ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’.

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 today, 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, Mr Kharge, 80, was widely seen as a frontrunner — owing to his being the Gandhis’ choice — against Shashi Tharoor, 66, for the party to get its first non-Gandhi chief in over two decades.

“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, 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.

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 then Salman Soz, representing Mr Tharoor’s team, said they had been “assured of a fair inquiry” and agreed that counting should continue.

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