Mallikarjun Kharge’s first move after being declared the next Congress president was to seek an appointment with interim chief Sonia Gandhi at her 10, Janpath home in Delhi. He did not get one.
Sources say after a 30-minute huddle with leaders, Sonia Gandhi decided that given the occasion, it really should be the other way round.
So, from 10 Janpath, the meeting shifted to 10 Rajaji Marg, Mr Kharge’s home. It was Sonia Gandhi who drove down, with a bouquet.
Sonia Gandhi’s gesture marks a break from convention in the Congress.
The Congress leadership has rarely visited any party leader’s home. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was an exception.
In 2015, Sonia Gandhi led a Congress march from the party office to Manmohan Singh’s home in a show of solidary after the two-time Prime Minister was summoned in a coal scam case.
With Sonia Gandhi’s visit to Mr Kharge’s home, the Gandhis hoped to send out a message to the ranks – that Mr Kharge is the new chief.
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi stressed that like every Congress member, he would report to “Kharge-ji”.
“I will report to the new president,” Rahul Gandhi told NDTV.
“The new president will decide my role in the party,” he said to multiple questions on a new Congress boss taking over.
For the Congress, it is the first non-Gandhi president in the 21st century. Since Independence, the Congress has mostly been led by a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, usually the unanimous choice.
Before Sonia Gandhi, Mr Kharge had one more visitor. His rival, Shashi Tharoor, called on him and said the elections, irrespective of the outcome, had “ultimately strengthened the party”.
“I look forward to working with Congress colleagues to face the challenges ahead. I believe the revival of our party has truly begun today,” Mr Tharoor said in a statement.