India’s Congress party on Wednesday appointed an octogenarian ex-minister as its first president in 24 years not from the Gandhi dynasty, in an effort to reverse its apparent decline into political oblivion. Mallikarjun Kharge, 80, was elected by members to replace Sonia Gandhi as president of the once-mighty party that helped win India’s independence from Britain 75 years ago. The Congress was last in power nationally from 2004 to 2014 under prime minister Manmohan Singh. The BJP thrashed Congress in the last two elections. After the latest defeat in 2019, Rahul Gandhi resigned as party president and handed the reins back to his Italian-born mother Sonia, now 75, who was first appointed to the role in 1998. Kharge, a former railways and labour minister who is from the low-caste Dalit community, was born five years before independence and is widely believed to have the backing of both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi said Wednesday that Kharge is now the supreme authority in the party and that he “will decide my role in the party”. But despite stepping back, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are expected to continue pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Kharge, who is four months older than US President Joe Biden, now faces the mammoth challenge of winning the next national election, due in 2024, and three state elections next year. Kharge faced off against Shashi Tharoor, 66, a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, who campaigned for “change” in the party. Tharoor conceded defeat on Twitter and said that being Congress president was a “great honour & a huge responsibility”, wishing Kharge “all success in the task”.