Shashi Tharoor, one of the candidates fighting the elections for the Congress president’s post, reached Bihar’s capital Patna for the first time ever on Friday and met people at the historic Sadaqat Ashram. However, during this time, no senior leader of Bihar Congress was seen either at the airport to receive him or at other places, which was in contrast to when the other contended Mallikarjun Kharge arrived here on October 11.
CNN-News18 managed to exclusively speak to Tharoor on Bihar’s soil.
When asked about the hook of his campaign, the lawmaker said, “Not the ideology, not our conviction, not our values or principles, but the fashion in which we work, the way we run our party may have reached its date of change. Every institution at some point of time becomes old and needs renewal and I’m trying to reform and renew the Congress party."
Responding to reports of party members acting in a biased way ahead of the October 17 election (the votes will be counted on October 19), Tharoor said that in most states, except in Madhya Pradesh recently, senior leaders have rallied behind Kharge. He also indicated that some leaders tried to discourage voters from attending his meetings or even seeing him. “There is a situation where the difference could easily be seen in the way one candidate is received and treated differently than the other. There’s no question that there are discrepancies. There are some challenges. I am batting on a pitch with very uneven bounce. But I am here to play the game and I will play in whatever the conditions may be," he said.
Tharoor repeated his statement that he and Kharge are colleagues and no matter who wins it would be the victory of the party. “The party has to come out stronger, refreshed, and renergised. The amount of interest that you in the media and the voters in the general public have shown in this election in the last couple of weeks is probably greater than what the Congress party has received in the last 8 years," he said.
At a press conference in Patna, Tharoor said that he and Kharge have the same ideology but the mode of working is different. Elaborating on this he mentioned that he has issued a manifesto that talks about the change he would like to bring.
“Mr Kharge is very used to the way the party has historically functioned. I have great respect for Kharge’s past functioning because the truth is that we did well for a long time, we won elections in 2004 and 2009 with that style of functioning," he said. “Even such things can reach an expiry date, and if we have reached a point where we find 8 or 9 extremely well-known national leaders leaving the party in the course of the last couple of years, then there is something going wrong to make people who have given their lives to the party to lose faith in our party. And that’s why I am saying that it is the time to renew our own faith in ourselves and what we believe in and what we have to fight for in our country. It is the time to energise our workers, give the ownership of the party, and proceed confidently and courageously."
The Gandhis are indispensable assets for the Congress, he said. “There is a tremendous amount of love and regard for the Gandhi family and it’s for a century now that the blood of the family has mixed with the DNA of the Congress party. It would be foolish for any president to distance himself or herself from the Gandhis," said Tharoor.
Asked who would be the favourite among Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal, and Rahul Gandhi as a PM candidate in 2024, Tharoor quickly said he would go with the Congress pick.
“The logic of coalition is you consult others before you announce any choice for a key position. In 2004, when the Congress came back after 10 years in the wilderness, at that time what did Sonia Gandhi do? She did not announce the prime ministerial candidate. It was after the election result when the UPA came and asked her to choose essentially the leader, then Manmohan Singh was chosen with the consent of other members of the coalition," he said.
Ending his interview with a quick reaction on the Congress’s ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra, Tharoor said that it would add to the party’s vote share which was stuck at around 19 per cent in the last two parliamentary polls.
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