Veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge formally took over as Congress president on Wednesday and said the party will break the “system of lies and hatred” prevailing under the current government.

Kharge, the first non-Gandhi to head the party in 24 years, had defeated Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor in a direct contest for the president‘s post in the grand old party after the Gandhis opted out of the race.

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Speaking at the event after he was handed over the certificate of election to the top post at a function at the AICC headquarters here, Kharge said it was an emotional moment for him and he would like to thank Congress people for making a worker’s son and an ordinary worker, president of the party.

“I know it is a difficult time, efforts are being made to change democracy established by Congress,” the 80-year-old leader said after taking over as party chief.

“The Congress will break this system of lies and hatred that is prevailing in the country,” he said.

Kharge also hailed Rahul Gandhi for embarking on the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which, he said, is filling the country with a new energy.

Kharge said the Udaipur Declaration’s proposals such as 50 per cent party posts to be given to those below 50 years of age, filling up organisational vacancies, setting up public insight department and election management department, establishing political affairs committee in states, will be implemented.

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“What kind of new India is this where youth are not getting jobs, farmers are being crushed under jeeps, atrocities taking place against women are rising, people are reeling under price rise but government is sitting with eyes closed, government is helping a few crony capitalist friends,” Kharge alleged.

“In this new India, hunger is rising, cost of education is rising, pollution is rising. The government is sleeping but ED, CBI are working for 24 hours for suppression. In this new India, Dalits, minorities and exploited people are being insulted and opportunities taken away from them…(Nathuram) Godse is called a patriot and (Mahatma) Gandhi is called a traitor, there are efforts to change Babasaheb’s Constitution and replace it with Sangh’s constitution,” Kharge alleged.

To make this new India, they want a Congress-mukt Bharat but the party will not allow this, the former Union minister said.

Kharge was handed over the certificate of election as the Congress president by the party’s central election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry.

Mistry said he hopes other parties will draw a lesson from the Congress and hold polls for party presidency by secret ballot.

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Outgoing Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former chief Rahul Gandhi and AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were also present at the event which was attended by several top party leaders.

Ahead of his taking over, Kharge visited Rajghat and paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi. He also visited the memorials of former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and former deputy prime minister Jagjivan Ram, and paid tributes to the leaders.