Tharoor feels heat on home turf after reported decision to contest Congress presidential election

Kerala Congress leaders frown at Shashi Tharoor's decision to contest AICC presidential election; stress loyalty to family.

ByK A Shaji

Published Sep 20, 2022 | 11:09 PMUpdatedSep 20, 2022 | 11:09 PM

Bharat Jodo Yatra

A day after Shashi Tharoor reportedly decided to join the race to become the AICC president, the otherwise divided Kerala unit of the Congress forged a facade of unity to denounce the move and rally behind the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Leaders contacted by South First termed Tharoor’s decision as “personal” and arrived at without consultation with leaders in the state.

Meanwhile, Tharoor made no public statements on Tuesday, 20 September, but indicated through close aides that he would not contest if Rahul Gandhi declared his candidature.

Many felt it was untimely and sent out a wrong message to the party’s grassroots workers in Kerala, who are expecting the Congress to ride on the growing popularity of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and stage a smart recovery in the state where it performed poorly in the last Assembly election.

“The party high command has already made it clear that anybody can contest the post, and I have nothing more to say on the topic. The Pradesh Congress Committee believes that Rahul Gandhi must lead the party from the front, organisationally and politically. There is nobody to substitute him, and the response evoked by the Bharat Jodo Yatra indicates that,” said Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President K Sudhakaran.

‘No Congress without family’

Senior leader K Muraleedharan went a step ahead to say that the state unit would only vote for a presidential candidate who has proven loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

“There is no Congress without the family, which sacrificed a lot for this country. Rahul Gandhi is our choice. If he is not willing, we will support somebody who enjoys the support of the family,” said Muraleedharan, who on many occasions has expressed displeasure over Tharoor’s attempts to stay afloat over the broader collective sentiments of the party unit in Kerala.

Former Kerala home minister Ramesh Chennithala said the Congress had no choice except Rahul Gandhi.

“He is the only mass leader with connections across the country. There is no other person to replace him,”‘ he told South First.

“There is no doubt that Rahul Gandhi will come and take up the post. But it is up to him whether to accept the post or not,” he said.

Lok Sabha member Kodikkunnil Suresh said he came to know about Tharoor’s candidature only through the media.

Tharoor not serious: Satheesan

“Anybody can contest the election. But the party will decide on its president unanimously. In the given situation, we have no leader other than Rahul Gandhi to occupy the post,” he said. “I don’t think Tharoor’s contest is serious,” Suresh added.

Meanwhile, Kerala’s Opposition leader VD Satheesan said the state unit of the Congress would adopt a resolution soon after Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra left Kerala, urging the high command to choose him as AICC president.

“We all are walking with Rahul Gandhi in the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The whole state unit is actively engaged with it. That is why we have decided to meet and pass the resolution after Rahul Gandhi leaves the state,” said Satheesan when asked why Kerala leadership is lagging while several other PCCs have adopted such resolutions.

Venugopal meets Sonia

AICC general secretary KC Venugopal, who took a break from the Bharat Jodo Yatra to meet Sonia Gandhi in Delhi, told media persons that the election process would be transparent and anybody could contest for any post.

Rahul Gandhi has decided not to leave for Delhi on Friday to meet Sonia Gandhi, as was earlier reported. He will continue the yatra as scheduled. Party sources had earlier indicated that he would take a break from the yatra to travel to Delhi and meet Sonia Gandhi.