Fail to understand why G-23 leaders who wanted polls are now backing off: Tharoor (Interview)

New Delhi, Oct 1 (IANS)
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said on Saturday that he fails to understand as to why the G-23 leaders, who earlier talked about polls in the party, are now backing off and talking about general consensus.
It’s going to be Mallikarjun Kharge versus Shashi Tharoor in the Congress Presidential polls scheduled on October 17. And Kharge has got the support of not only the senior leadership of the party, but the G-23 leaders as well.
Talking exclusively to IANS, Tharoor said that polls for the post of Congress President are being held after five years. The last election was held in 2017, which Rahul Gandhi had won unanimously. The last contested election was held in 2000, when Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasada by a huge margin.
The Gandhi family has decided that it will not endorse any candidate this time. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi both are of the view that polls will strengthen the party, which is very good, Tharoor said.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Q: Are you disappointed for not getting G-23 leaders’ support?
A: G-23 is not an organisation. Senior leaders who had sent a letter to Sonia Gandhi had sought support from 100 people, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the letter could not get that many signatures. So the letter was sent to Sonia Gandhi with the signature of 23 leaders.
Three main persons who had signed that letter have quit the party. I was not a representative of G-23 and I do not intend to be one either. But I supported their thinking and one of their thoughts was that polls should be held in the party. Now I am contesting for the party chief’s post, and I also feel that elections should be held for the working committee as well.
However, those who had said that polls should be held in the party are now saying that there should be a general consensus and elections should not be held. I fail to understand how their mind changed. But I am contesting the elections. Whatever I had written in the letter, I still stand by that.
Q. Are you disappointed that the G23 leaders didn’t back you? Or by the way the senior leadership took you into confidence and the then suggested Khadge’s name?
A. People are free to make their choice and express their views. I am not disappointed because we are all in one party, we are friends and colleagues. If the G23 leaders felt differently, it is their take.
Q. Any chance of you withdrawing the nomination?
A. How can I withdraw the nomination when 60 members have signed it and given me the chance? How can I betray the faith they have posed on me? I will fight the elections and become their voice, though my signature list does not have big names as Kharge’s. I cannot withdraw my nomination as Congress workers are with me.
Q How you are building your support base?
A. In the coming 15 days, I will go to 12 cities and seek support from the party workers. I will reach out to the people, hold public meetings and meet people in person. I will reach out to the people via different mediums and seek their support.
But since I do not have the phone numbers of 90 per cent delegates mentioned in the list provided to me, reaching out to them is not going to be easy.
Q. What is your take on the sequence of events in Rajasthan?
A. Whatever happened in Rajasthan is really sad. But I can’t give any reaction as I did not attend any of the meetings. I am not in the know of the things as to what exactly transpired there.
Q. You are seeking vote for ‘change’ in the Congress. Do you think that if Kharge is elected the President, he will work as a puppet and the party will continue to function in the same manner?
A. Of course not, I am not against anyone. See, we are not fighting a war. We are all colleagues who have always worked together. In the future also, we will work together. If I become the party President, will Khargeji not work for the betterment of the party? If you ask anyone about senior Congress leaders outside the Gandhi family, every list will have Kahrgeji’s name.

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