“No candidate shall be given preferential treatment.” This has been Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s refrain since the race to succeed her narrowed down to two contenders – Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor.
It’s no secret that Kharge is the choice of the Gandhi family. However, on record, the party has issued guidelines to all state agencies that both candidates should be given an open reception. However, as Tharoor discovered to his disappointment, the policy remains only on paper.
Only 20 party officials were present at the Delhi Convention Bureau on Thursday and little provision was made to give Shashi Tharoor a warm welcome. The man pleading for change was visibly upset and didn’t hold back at a press conference.
“We are holding elections after 22 years and there will be shortcomings. But in many places I traveled I felt that some of the Chairmen of the Pradesh Congress Committee were not very interested in meeting me. You never showed me the same warmth as Mr. Kharge. I’m not complaining but don’t you see the difference in the treatment?” he asked.
Mallikarjun Kharge is backed by an impressive team that includes Naseer Hussain, Deepender Hooda, and Gaurav Gogoi. The party’s media department has also facilitated interactions with Kharge, although it maintains that no candidate is favored over the other.
The presence of the PCC bosses is not only important for looks, but on October 17th the 9,000 PCC delegates will decide who will replace Sonia Gandhi. The presence and attitude of PCC bosses during candidate visits is a key indicator of sentiment.
Many leaders, including Tharoor himself, have also consistently pointed out that the number of delegates is either not updated or is readily available to him, giving Kharge a competitive advantage. Kharge has claimed he is fighting fair and doesn’t see Tharoor as an opponent but as a colleague who plans to up the ante against the BJP.
The fact is, however, that the slogan “Think Change, Think Tharoor” adopted by the Thiruvananthapuram MP makes many uneasy and lacks confidence that he can keep the herd together if elected to the top post.
While the numbers are stacked in Kharge’s favor, Congress hopes to indicate that unlike the BJP and other parties, Congress has at least held a contest.
Tharoor’s vocal disappointment has fueled the BJP’s criticism that the elections are a “sham” to “keep a Gandhi’s seat warm” in the future.
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