Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday said Mallikarjun Kharge is "best suited" to lead the Congress party in the "historic battle for India's soul", while leaders of some INDIA bloc parties urged him to bring strength to the opposition and lead it to victory in next year's general elections.
Opposition leaders used the occasion of a book launch on Kharge's completion of 50 years in electoral politics to assert that the Congress president should lead all opposition parties together and ensure unity among them, so that they can win the 2024 elections.
DMK's T R Baalu, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury and RJD MP Manoj Kumar Jha were among those who hailed Kharge's leadership and called upon the opposition parties to shed their differences and emerge stronger.
"As a strong organisational leader, who enjoys our confidence, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge is best suited to lead the Congress party in this historic battle for India's soul. In this, he has my steadfast support and that of the Congress party," Sonia Gandhi said at the function while launching the book "Mallikarjun Kharge - Political Engagement with Compassion, Justice and Inclusive Development".
Baalu said the DMK will extend all its support to the Congress which has a high stature in the minds of the Indian public and this needed to be nourished not only till 2024 but later too, as he urged Kharge to lead all opposition parties together to ensure their victory. Kharge has the capacity to handle them, Baalu said.
"In the coming days, all 28 parties together will have to unitedly, concretely...drive away the evils from the country and that is more important for us. Forget about the differences among us and this may be carried forward by Kharge as a leader of the INDIA parties. The senior-most leader Kharge ji should lead these parties together without any problem so that we can win in 2024," he said.
Yechury said that while efforts are being made to bring all opposition parties together, Kharge has a big responsibility to take them forward together, while shedding their differences, and ensure victory in Lok Sabha polls.
"It is not just my party, but the entire India wants that," the Left leader said.
RJD's Manoj Jha lauded Kharge for his positivity and said when he stands in Parliament, "the opposition gets strength and today the opposition needs that strength."
"Abhishek Singhvi has said in the book that 'there is no culmination yet'. I can vouch for it that the culmination will be very beautiful, very high for the country, for you, for people like us and for all those sitting here," Jha said.
Kharge in his speech said he hopes that all parties will continue to stay together and fight the election unitedly.
The Congress president said he cannot ignore that both the Constitution and parliamentary democracy are in danger in the country today.
"I have seen many challenges to the country over the last 50 years. The country has tried to address those challenges and will continue to overcome new challenges to emerge stronger. It will happen only when we are able to sort out our differences and come together.
"On this occasion, I would like to say that I hope that we will continue to stay united and fight unitedly," the Congress chief told leaders of other parties.
Kharge noted that it was a very happy and emotional event for him as he reached this position after starting as an ordinary party worker.
Describing Kharge as a pillar of strength, Sonia Gandhi said in his 50 years in politics he did not just survive its unpredictable course but continued to rise higher and higher throughout his political career.
"Not only did Kharge ji not compromise on his ideology, but not once did he drift away from the cause of the poor.
"Not once did he compromise dignity and conduct to win political battles. That is why today Kharge ji stands tall as the president of the Indian National Congress," Gandhi said.
Embodying the indomitable Indian spirit, she said, he has overcome multiple adversities in his long journey, which will be an inspiration to millions.
"Faced with communalism and discrimination at a tender age, he consciously chose to be secular and liberal. Faced with poverty and discrimination, he courageously embraced compassion towards all beings," she noted.
To her, Gandhi said, Kharge has been a wise companion and a pillar of strength. "He has shared many of my burdens with stoic courage, unwavering kindness and sharpness.... Today, he helms the Congress party at a crucial juncture."
Rahul Gandhi, who could not attend the event, said in a letter, "Your journey from grassroots to political eminence is incredible. Your success gives hope to all carving their way in politics. Your commitment to social justice and spirited campaign has energised the party. I hope you will continue to inspire us all with your wisdom."
Top Congress leaders including party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the chief ministers of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh - Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel and Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu - were present at the event.
-With PTI Input