Empty KPCC office greets AICC presidential candidate Shashi Tharoor as he seeks votes in home state Kerala

Not one KPCC leader was present to receive Shashi Tharoor when he reached the office to campaign. But workers outside hailed him as the future of the party.

ByK A Shaji

Published Oct 05, 2022 | 8:50 PM Updated Oct 05, 2022 | 9:24 PM

Congress leader Tharoor and Oommen Chandy

An almost empty headquarters of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) greeted All India Congress Committee (AICC) presidential candidate Sashi Tharoor on Wednesday, 5 October, when he reached there as part of his intense campaign for the election slated for later this month.

Only the office staff were present, as almost all the office-bearers stayed away, indicating their preference for veteran Mallikarjun Kharge, who is believed to have the blessings of the Nehru-Gandhi family, for the post.

Party insiders told South First that most state leaders are unhappy with Tharoor for his attempts to drag Rahul Gandhi, who is now immersed in his Bharat Jodo Yatra, currently in its Karnataka leg, into the intricacies of the presidential election.

On Tuesday, Tharoor had told media that some leaders had approached Rahul Gandhi seeking his intervention to prevent the three-time Lok Sabha member of Thiruvananthapuram from contesting the AICC president’s election.

Tharoor had also claimed Rahul Gandhi responded by saying he would not ask anyone to withdraw as a contest would only benefit the party.

Support for Tharoor

Though the KPCC office was empty, a massive gathering of party workers was visible outside the gates when Tharoor came out to interact with the waiting media.

The workers shouted slogans describing Tharoor as the future hope of the Congress, suggesting a disconnect between KPCC leaders and the party’s common workers who, unfortunately, do not have a vote in the election.

Unperturbed by the cold response of KPCC leadership, Tharoor spent the afternoon visiting veteran leaders Oommen Chandy, Vakkom Purushothaman and Thampanoor Ravi at their respective residences.

He has also attended a vidyarambham ritual in which over a dozen children were initiated to the world of letters. His campaign trail takes him to Tamil Nadu on Thursday.

Tharoor defends himself

While interacting with media persons, Tharoor said he was aware of the open campaign for Kharge by an AICC member in the state. However, he refused to disclose the name of the member.

When asked about the stiff opposition he is facing from the Kerala unit, Tharoor replied that he has not one bone of jealousy in him.

vakkom

Tharoor meets veteran Congress leader Vakkom Purushothaman in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. (Supplied)

He had also defended his middle-class background and secular credentials in an apparent counter to the scathing criticism from senior party leader and Lok Sabha member K Muraleedharan.

Referring to the allegation that he was a fortune seeker, Tharoor swore his loyalty to the Congress and ruled out the possibility of quitting the party at any time.

When asked about Rahul Gandhi’s stand on the fight between him and Kharge for the organisational post, Tharoor said the Gandhi scion reminded him that the Nehru-Gandhi family had been demanding at least for the past 10 years that there should be a contest for the party chief’s post.

At the media interaction, Tharoor hinted that he would be forced to approach the party’s Chief Election Officer (CEO) Madhusudan Mistry against KPCC office bearers if they continued to openly pitch for his opponent Kharge.

Tharoor said the organisational election rules mandate each Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) to remain neutral on such occasions.

He said that no PCC office bearer could do any campaign favouring any candidate. “Protecting democracy is the Congress tradition, and that is why we use secret ballots and stand for conscience voting,” he said.

Tharoor reiterated that there is no official candidate in the election. He also termed the leaders who openly take sides in the contest as those who disregard Sonia Gandhi’sGandhi’s writ.

Sudhakaran, Chennithala with Kharge

Meanwhile, KPCC president K Sudhakaran, who threw in his lot with Kharge on Tuesday, mellowed his stand somewhat on Wednesday, describing Tharoor as a long-time friend and saying he has nothing against the latter’s decision to contest the election.

Thampanoor

Tharoor meets AICC member and senior party leader Thampanoor Ravi. (Supplied)

“The organisational election will be a friendly contest, and all of us will vote in it based on our conscience,” said Sudhakaran.

“I am nobody to say that the Kerala unit backs Kharge,” he said.

Meanwhile, Muraleedharan said that he believed Tharoor lacked the experience required to hold such a high post in the party, whereas Kharge has a long history of standing with the party at the time of adversity.

Senior leader Ramesh Chennithala, who has considerable clout over AICC members from the state, has also declared that he would vote for Kharge.

Chennithala said he would campaign for Kharge in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Both Muraleedharan and Chennaithala said they have nothing personal against Tharoor, but claimed that organisational experience matters.

Whether it is Tharoor who wins or Kharge, the Congress will have a president from South India for the first in over a quarter of a century.