Congressional presidential candidate Shashi Tharoor on Friday refuted suggestions that his rival Mallikarjun Kharge had been backed by the Nehru-Gandhi family, which would continue to hold the reins of the party regardless of who was elected to the top posts. However, at a press conference here at Bihar Congress headquarters, Tharoor admitted that it would be bewakoofi (stupidity) for any party president to keep the Nehru-Gandhi family at arm’s length, and I myself would not like to do that either.
After I decided to vote in the elections, I met Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra separately. All assured that the party leader elections would be conducted impartially, and none of them expressed a preference. Nor did Madhusudan Mistry, chairman of the party’s central electoral authority, he said. Tharoor also dismissed suggestions that the Nehru-Gandhi family wanted to retain control of the party, noting that Rahul Gandhi became party president in 2017 for a five-year term and he could have withdrawn his resignation at any time.
He ducked questions about what he thought of Bihar Prime Minister Nitish Kumar’s renewed interest in national politics, prompting the latter to be seen again as an alternative to leading the opposition camp. This is something the party president, once elected, will address. However, I am certain that the future of the country is at stake and we will have to fight the BJP well into 2024. I threw myself into the fray for the same reason, said the former Union minister.
Responding to questions from reporters, Tharoor said Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra’ was getting a tremendous response from the people, but acknowledged that the new party president had a big task ahead as Congress faced general elections in a number of states. Speaking of his competition with Kharge, for whom he had deep respect as a high-ranking colleague, Tharoor said: “It all takes place in a friendly family. We all want to work together for the betterment of the party. I think the party needs some changes, especially to strengthen the base. And I will continue to work in this direction, whatever the outcome.
One thing is for sure. The election of the party leader will be an example of how real democracy can work within a party. The election will be by secret ballot, he added.
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