Indian National Congress selects new leader following election loss to Narendra Modi

Indian National Congress selects new leader following election loss to Narendra Modi

Today, top-ranking officials from India’s main opposition, the Indian National Congress, will meet in New Delhi to select their next

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Photo: Reuters

Today, top-ranking officials from India’s main opposition, the Indian National Congress, will meet in New Delhi to select their next leader.

Congress is reeling following a landslide defeat to incumbent PM Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP secured 303 of the 545 seats in the lower house, while Congress took just 52—only marginally better than the paltry 44 it won in 2014. Mr Modi’s victory was expected, but the race was projected to be far closer given modest Congress gains in state-level elections.

PM Modi attacked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s privileged position on the campaign trail, largely winning over the former Congress base—those in northern India and the poor—with nationalist rhetoric. Meanwhile, the opposition’s populist campaign promises of a minimum wage and a basic living income have fallen flat with voters in consecutive elections.

Mr Gandhi attempted to resign from his leadership post last week, a bid rejected by the party faithful. Yet, Congress may be forced to accept Mr Gandhi’s resignation and select a new leader today if it hopes to shirk its elitist image and survive in the BJP-dominated political landscape. To avoid collapse, Congress needs to find a leader who can rally the poor and marginalised against the BJP, but, with no obvious candidate in sight, intra-party turmoil will likely continue.

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