Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said Sunday the Gandhi family is struggling to strengthen the party and he would not be ashamed to take their advice and support should he be elected party leader. Kharge, who is considered close to the Gandhis, joined Rahul Gandhi in Bellary on Saturday for the Bharat Jodo Yatra and later addressed a public meeting there.
The veterans’ leader said he was the “delegates’ nominee” in that election scheduled for October 17 for the party’s highest post, such things as there is nothing else to say. The BJP indulges in such a campaign and others follow. Sonia Gandhi worked in the organization for 20 years… Rahul Gandhi was also president… they fought for the party and used their strength for its growth.” Congress delegates will vote on Monday to elect their party leader. Kharge, who is running against party leader Shashi Tharoor, will cast his ballot at the Karnataka Congress Bureau in Bengaluru in the morning, sources close to him said.
Speaking to reporters here, he stressed that the Nehru-Gandhi family – from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi – have made tremendous contributions and sacrifices to this country. “Just because we (Congress) lost a few elections doesn’t make it right to say something like that (against Gandhis). You have done this country good. Your advice will benefit the party, so I will definitely seek their advice and support. There’s no shame in that. If anything benefits from your (media) advice, I will take it too. They worked for this party and it is my duty to seek their advice,” Kharge said. “Plus, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi know every corner of the country, who is where and who can do what for the party. What needs to be done to achieve unity in the party, I have to learn and I will do it,” he added.
If elected, he would be the first Dalit to lead the party in more than 45 years. He is the only leader to have become the leader of the opposition in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. He was also opposition leader in the Karnataka Assembly but failed to become prime minister.
The Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka met with some state congress leaders on Sunday and addressed the media as part of his election campaign here. Kharge made no direct comments about his opponent or his campaign, merely saying that everyone has the right to speak out on their merits, while asking for support, as he has highlighted his connection to the party’s grassroots level. “I don’t want to get into a controversy, he (Tharoor) airs his thoughts, I don’t want to debate his thoughts. i share my thoughts It is our organization or a family matter. He has the right to say what he wants, and so do I. It’s an internal friendly fight,” he said when asked about his message to Tharoor.
He also dismissed the suggestion that this was viewed by some as a rigged election, given open support from senior leaders and delegates. “I contact election delegates, my campaign managers organize … I am a candidate of delegates, senior leaders and delegates have sponsored me.” Asked about Congress’ prospects in the Karnataka election campaign and the impact of his election as party leader, Kharge said, “Leaders of the States fight for a cause and work hard… I believe in collective leadership, collective deliberation. Congress in Karnataka is united and will form a state government (after assembly elections in 2023).” Congress Secretary-General Randeep Surjewala said Sonia and Rahul Gandhi would always have the “moral authority” as they are always after lived principles and established the right paradigm. “This Gandhi moral authority comes from the party’s 99 percent cadre strength and even Shashi Tharoor swears by it,” Surjewala said.
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