Destabilizing speculation

Gandhi family blessing me and Kharge: Shashi Tharoor

Congress presidential candidate Shashi Tharoor said on Sunday that the Gandhi family blessed him and his opponent, Mallikarjun Kharge, and had no bias towards either.

Speaking to the media after meeting party officials at the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee office here, the former diplomat also said his aim was to strengthen the Congress ahead of the 2024 elections.

“The Gandhi family bless me and Kharge ji. Because we are fighting to make the party stronger,” he said.

Tharoor dismissed speculation that the ongoing electoral battle with Kharge was a battle between an official candidate (Kharge) and an unofficial candidate (himself) as claimed by some leaders.

“My interactions with the Gandhi family have convinced me that there is no prejudice on their part towards me or Kharge,” he said.

The BJP should start preparing to be part of the opposition as it will have to sit there after the 2024 elections, Tharoor said.

“Our party needs change and I feel like I am the one who will be the catalyst for change,” Tharoor said.

He said Congress has run the country well and has experimented with people in the party.

“We have to win the trust of voters,” he added during the sensitization event for delegates at the state headquarters of the Congress in Mumbai.

Congressional State Unit Leader Nana Patole was not present.

“I had a word with Patole ji and he informed me about his previous engagement. I’m not complaining at all,” Tharoor said when asked about Patole’s absence.

Members of the All India Professional Congress welcomed Tharoor to Tilak Bhavan. Former Lok Sabha MP Priya Dutt and former Rajya Sabha MP Bhalchandra Mungekar were also present.

Tharoor visited Chaityabhoomi, BR Ambedkar’s cremation ground, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial at Shivaji Park and Siddhivinayak Temple before reaching Tilak Bhawan, the seat of the State Congress.

Tharoor also made a video call on Twitter later today for the more than 9,000 Pradesh Congress delegates who will vote in the organizational poll.

“We are facing a big challenge in the Indian National Congress. The challenge of reviving our party and making it fit to fight the formidable BJP in the 2024 elections,” he said in his video call.

“The challenge is made all the greater by the fact that our party is setting the nation an example of internal party democracy that no other party has been able to do,” Tharoor said.

Congress Speaker Sonia Gandhi, former party chairman Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have stressed they welcome the election as a way to strengthen the Congress and they believe it will attract the public to the party, Tharoor said , adding that it is in this spirit that he fights.

He said he offered a number of ideas to strengthen the party in his manifesto, including decentralization of authority, empowering workers to have access to all levels of decision-making, broadening party participation and empowerment of all workers.

The idea is to restore the institutions provided for in the party’s constitution but which have fallen into disuse and win back the voters the party lost in the 2014 and 2019 elections.

He urged delegates to vote for him on October 17, saying “if not now, when are we going to do it”.

(Inputs from PTI)