New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi was formally appointed Congress president on Saturday morning in a function at party’s official headquarters 24, Akbar Road in the national capital, Delhi.

Gandhi was handed over the certificate of election as the new Congress president by party’s Central Election Authority (CEA) headed by Lok Sabha MP Mullapally Ramachandran in the presence of his mother and predecessor Sonia Gandhi, sister Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra and her husband Robert Vadra, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and other senior party leaders.

With this, 47 year old Rahul Gandhi becomes the sixth leader from the Nehru-Gandhi family to occupy the top post in the party.

“I want to assure all the Congress workers and leaders that you are all my family...I want to tell the youth of this country that Congress is often referred to as the grand old party but going forth we are going to make it the grand old young party," Rahul Gandhi told party supporters.

Taking a jibe at ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he added that once a fire is lit it is difficult to diffuse. “They break, we unite. They light the fires, we diffuse. They get angry, we spread love," he added. He asked his party men to stand up to the BJP, saying anger and hatred cannot defeat the party. “I want Congress to become an instrument of dialogue with people of India", he said.

As he takes over, it also marks the end of the longest serving tenure of outgoing party president Sonia Gandhi which lasted for a little under two decades.

“This is the last time I am addressing you all as Congress president...20 years ago when I was addressing you, I was nervous and did not know how I was going to take this responsibility," outgoing Congress president Sonia Gandhi said while addressing party leaders and added that a generational shift has happened in the party.

“India is a young country and I am hopeful that the young leadership at helm will bring about a real change," she said while describing her two decade old tenure as “almost a lifetime".

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also addressed the gathering and said that with Rahul Gandhi’s elevation the party will witness a new energy. “We depend on you to transform and sustain the politics of hope," Singh said.

“Breaking away from tradition, this is the first time that the certificate for the new Congress president is being given out in front of party leaders and members," Janardan Dwivedi, senior Congress leader said while addressing the function.

Rahul Gandhi entered electoral politics in 2004. He was appointed as the party general secretary in 2007 and was elevated as its vice president in January 2013.

(-With PTI inputs)

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