Congress enters Rahul era

Published: December 16, 2017 21:19:35 | Updated: December 17, 2017 14:30:54

The Gandhi dynasty has infused fresh blood into the Congress leadership as Rahul Gandhi took over on Saturday as president of the party after years of speculation.

The scion of India's most famous political dynasty will head the main opposition Congress party, faced with a stiff challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Hindu nationalists, according to AP.

Rahul took the mantle from his mother, Sonia Gandhi, at a party function. His party has been losing power to Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party since 2014. Gandhi's party has suffered humiliating defeats in recent state elections despite his active campaigning to win back support.

In a speech, Sonia Gandhi described her son as a new hope for the Congress as party workers danced, burst firecrackers and distributed Indian sweets to celebrate the generational shift in the leadership.

Gandhi, 47, will be taking on Modi when the prime minister seeks a second five-year term in 2019. Modi has vowed to create a Congress-free India while working for the rise of Hindu nationalist forces.

In his speech, Gandhi described himself as an "idealist" and said Indian people were getting disillusioned by policies pursued by the Modi government.

He said the Congress party, which had ruled India for decades, took the country into the 21st century through modernization and development. He accused Modi of taking India "to a medieval path where people are butchered because who they are, beaten for what they believe in and killed for what they eat."

"The Congress will take on this challenge and will never back down," he said.

Gandhi was referring to killings and attacks on minority groups, especially Muslims, since the Bharatiya Janata Party swept national elections in 2014. Most of the violence against Muslims has involved fringe Hindu vigilante groups that have become active in small towns and cities across India. Muslims make up about 14 percent of India's 1.3 billion people and Hindus about 80 per cent.

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