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Rahul Gandhi becomes Congress chief, slams Modi for 'medieval' politics

The 47-year-old Rahul Gandhi scion's formal takeover comes two days before the counting of votes for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections

IANS  |  New Delhi 

Rahul Gandhi
Congress President Rahul Gandhi (Photo: PTI)

Marking a generational shift, on Saturday took over as the new President, assuming the mantle of the country's oldest political party from his mother Sonia Gandhi, and launched a sharp attack on Prime Minister Narendra accusing him of "taking us back to the medieval times".

The process of his election as the new chief was completed after the Central Election Authority President Mullapally Ramachandran handed over the Certificate of Election to in a ceremony at 24, Akbar Road, housing the party headquarters.

Sonia Gandhi, 70, who steered the party through turbulent times for 19 years, her daughter Priyanka Vadra, and son-in-law Robert Vadra and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh joined the top leadership at the ceremony marked by loud celebrations as scores of supporters danced to the beat of drums, raised slogans, burst firecrackers and distributed sweets outside the party office here.

The 47-year-old Gandhi scion's formal takeover comes two days before the counting of votes for and Himachal Pradesh elections, the outcome of which could be a trendsetter for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. His main challenge remains the revamping of party organisation, apart from electoral battles in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

In his first speech as the President, launched an all-out attack against and the BJP.

"belongs to the people, but today is not being used for people. It is not being used to uplift people, but to crush them," said.

He said many of the countrymen were "disillusioned by of our time" as "today, is devoid of kindness and truth".

"The took India to the 21st Century, but the PM, today, is taking us back to the medieval times... We are now being compelled to imagine that businesses can be built without harmony that only one man himself is the voice of reason, and that expertise, experience and knowledge can be cast aside for personal glory," said.

"You have an example in front of you. Once fire breaks out it is difficult to douse it. That is what we are telling the people of BJP, that if you set the nation on fire it will be difficult to control.

Today, the BJP has spread the fire of violence across the country."

in her speech said the activists and leaders were not a terrified lot.

"We won't bow down. Our struggle is for the country and we will continue fighting for it. We won't give it up," said

"Rahul is my son. So I do not think to praise him is appropriate for me. But I would say that since childhood he had to bear the brunt of violence. After joining he had to face blatant personal attacks that have made him a stronger person."

Manmohan Singh said was assuming the new responsibility amid "disturbing trends" as "there are dangers that the of fear will take over the of hope" in the country.

"Rahulji, we depend upon you to transform and sustain the of hope," Manmohan Singh said, pointing out that the new President had been trained for a long period and had already looked after many activities of the for many years now.

"Rahulji brings in a new sense of dedication and commitment, a new sense of leadership with courage and humility."

Manmohan Singh said it was "a unique day in the history of the Congress" with handing over the reins of the party to her son.

He said during the last 19 years as the President, "provided a powerful leadership".

"Now that Soniaji is handing over the reins of the party to Rahulji, we salute Soniaji for uniting the leadership, something that she has been doing for the last 19 years."

Outside the 24, Akbar Road, Headquarters, a group of colourfully dressed artistes played drums and danced to Punjabi bhangra tunes with party supporters, including men and women, shaking a leg or two and waving Rahul Gandhi's pictures and flags.

There were other groups of artists from Hyderabad and Rajasthan performing folk dances of their regions.

spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the was making a new resolve for the country. "Today we are taking a pledge for a new movement in India.

"Free from fear, for freedom of expression, for eliminating discriminations, for promoting brotherhood and saving democracy."

First Published: Sat, December 16 2017. 13:13 IST