Thiruvananthapuram: Shashi Tharoor, who made an aggressive bid for the post of Congress Speaker in the party’s Oct. 17 elections, faces a tough challenge in Kerala, his home state, where almost all the top party leaders openly declared their support for his rival candidate Mallikarjun Kharge.
KPCC chairman K Sudhakaran, opposition leader VD Satheesan and senior leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala are among those who have openly backed Kharge. This means that many delegates, all of whom are nominated by one or other of these leaders, are likely to vote against Tharoor. Kerala has almost 300 delegates with voting rights.
The undeclared support that Kharge enjoys from the party leadership (read the Gandhi family) is the most obvious reason why the leaders of Kerala, all loyal to the party’s first family, are rallying behind 18-year-old Kharge. 80 years old.
They display Kharge’s commitment to the organization, Dalit identity and rich experience as reasons for choosing the veteran over Tharoor who, according to one of them, chose politics as a career after retirement. K Muraleedharan, a former state Congress leader, on Wednesday cited Tharoor’s lack of connection with the masses as the main reason for opposing his Lok Sabha colleague. However, the real reasons for their opposition to Tharoor are more than openly stated.
“Tharoor is talented and very ambitious, but his ambition to become president of the AICC cannot be justified,” one of the state’s top congressional leaders told Onmanorama.
Fears of dual leadership
One of the main reasons state leaders are against the idea of Tharoor as Congress speaker is their fear that it will lead to a “dual leadership” situation in the party’s high command. “Everyone knows that Rahul Gandhi is the face of Congress. Whoever becomes party chairman will have a crucial say in party affairs. In such a scenario, it is better to have a president who can get along with the existing management. Otherwise, it would lead to double leadership or two centers of power. It will in no way be good for the party,” said a source opposed to Tharoor’s presidential bid.
If this reason seems sycophantic, the other arguments advanced by the source in the anti-Tharoor camp made more sense. They included the oft-repeated complaints against Tharoor’s office in Thiruvananthapuram and the independent positions the diplomat-turned-politician has taken in the past, putting party interests at risk.
“One of the main complaints we hear from party workers in Thiruvananthapuram is about Tharoor’s office and the way his staff manage it. How can he lead the whole party if he can’t get his office in order,” a senior leader told Onmanorama.
The K-Rail Dilemma
Tharoor was reluctant to toe the Congress line on the controversial K-Rail SilverLine semi-high-speed rail corridor. Tharoor’s long-standing silence on the pet project of the leftist government led by Pinarayi Vijayan had all the traits of tactical support. Even as the Congress-led United Democratic Front launched aggressive agitation against SilverLine, its position was that it would study the project in detail before taking a clear position on it.
Tharoor maintained this position even as Congress tried to expose the environmental and economic impacts the project was likely to cause, with the support of a number of public intellectuals and experts.
“While we were building an infallible narrative about our concerns regarding the SilverLine project, Tharoor, without consulting any of us, went to meet Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and somehow expressed his support for the project. took a lot of effort and communication to convince him of our position,” the source said.
More recently, a similar situation occurred in connection with the popular protest against the Vizhinjam port project. Even as the Congress-led opposition backed the protest of the local fishing community backed by the Latin Catholic Church against the project, Tharoor took an open stand that there was no need to stop the fishers. work on the project.
“Since the project was launched by the previous UDF government itself, we had obvious limitations in challenging the project. We convinced the protesters of our situation and promised to amplify their cause by raising issues such as coastal erosion and the need for better rehabilitation programs. It was totally unjustified for Tharoor to make statements in favor of the project without understanding the reality on the ground. At least he should have remembered that it is the coastal community that plays a crucial role in his electoral victories,” the source said.
While the open endorsement of his rival’s senior leadership has visibly angered Tharoor, he is pinning his hopes on the secret ballot system that will decide the verdict at the polls.
“I didn’t expect any support from the big party leaders and I don’t expect it now either…. I will say one thing, whatever is said secretly or publicly, the ballot is secret. Nobody will know who voted for whom. People can vote according to their wishes and beliefs. They can decide who they want to strengthen the party and prepare it to counter the challenges it will face in the future,” he said. told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.
Sources close to Tharoor are also optimistic that those desperate to see change in the congressional system will defy the diktat of senior leaders by voting.
The ballot for the presidential election of the Congress will take place on 17 October. The counting of votes will begin on October 19 and the results will be announced the same day. More than 9,000 delegates from the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) will vote in the ballot.