July 3 (UPI) -- Rahul Gandhi officially stepped down Wednesday as India's main opposition leader, with a stern warning to his party that it "must radically transform itself" after its defeat in national elections this spring.
Gandhi submitted a letter of resignation announcing he's no longer Congress Party president, a little more than a month after the party was crushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP party -- taking just 52 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha.
Gandhi announced at the end of the five-week election that he would resign as party leader, but made it official Wednesday.
"Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party," Gandhi wrote. "It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress president."
He noted it's the Congress Party's duty to "defend people's voices that [Modi's party] is crushing" -- starting with finding a new leader.
"While it is important for someone new to lead the party, it would not be correct for me to select that person," he wrote. "Immediately after resigning, I suggested to my colleagues ... the way forward would be to entrust a group of people with the task of beginning the search for a new president. I have empowered them to do so and committed my full support to this process and a smooth transition."
Gandhi's exit could mark the first time someone outside the Nehru-Gandhi family has led the opposition party in its 133-year history.
"It is a habit in India that the powerful cling to power," he wrote. "But we will not defeat our opponents without sacrificing the desire for power and fighting a deeper ideological battle."