HomePoliticsCongress presidential polls: Tharoor makes a statement through his candidacy

Congress presidential polls: Tharoor makes a statement through his candidacy


Thiruvananthapuram: Shashi Tharoor is fated to lose the race for the Congress presidential elections unless a miracle happens. But through his candidacy, the 66-year-old Tharoor has made a bold statement. He stands for what the Indian National Congress of the 21st century should be. He exposes what is wrong with the present Congress, whose leaders still claim it to be a national political brand.

Tharoor, comparatively a late entrant in active politics, has rushed to a terrain where even party veterans shy to tread. He has done that in complete confidence. He is aware that the odds are heavily stacked against him. More than winning the elections to the top slot of the grand old party, he wants to hold a mirror to its present sordid state for all those who still have faith in its destiny to see.

It is the won’t of the three-time Lok Sabha member from the Kerala capital to take all contests seriously. In this round too he has entered the fray in all seriousness. Tharoor has even come out with a manifesto. Something unusual in an organisational election in India. By now, he might have mailed it to all members of the electoral college. The manifesto spells out what he proposes to do if he gets a chance to lead the party from the front. A sort of wish list to pre-empt the complete structural collapse of the party. An earnest attempt to save the party from the brink of extinction, and conserve the values for which it stood through the modern history of the nation.

The highlight of the Tharoor Manifesto is the tenet of ‘decentralisation’. This implies genuine devolution of functional autonomy to entire levels of the party structure. It then goes on to enlist the other priorities badly needed to revitalize the party such as broadening the participation, reinvigorating the election management and increasing focus on the youth. It makes a strong case for ‘reimagining’ the AICC. Significantly, the present Congress party is deficient in all these.

In an interview before filing his nomination, Tharoor put his vision in perspective saying “my whole message is that elections are desirable, and that is good for the Congress”.

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Till the last minute, Tharoor held, and he still seems to believe, that the Gandhis had a neutral stand in the whole process and their only concern was that the elections would take place in all fairness. But the developments in the run-up to the nomination process would not vouch for Tharoor’s optimism. It is plain that Mallikarjuna Kharge, the other contestant, has the tacit support of Sonia Gandhi. To be fair to him, Rahul Gandhi seems to have refrained from taking a partisan position. It was he who passionately argued for the elections to take place. Keeping away from the intrigues at the party centre, Rahul Gandhi is entirely focused on his Bharat Jodo yatra, now traversing through Karnataka.

Ironically, the state from where Tharoor is going to get the least support is Kerala. The run-of-the-mill Congress leaders in Kerala had tended to look at him as an ’outsider’ when he made the surprise entry to contest the Lok Sabha polls in 2009 from Thiruvananthapuram. His accomplishments such as a brilliant career as an international civil servant and as a writer and public intellectual had little impact on them. It was his astuteness and innate skills that steered him successfully through the first campaign. Over the years, Tharoor has gained immense popularity and acceptance in his constituency and outside, entirely due to his charm and abilities. Whatever success he had in electoral politics, it is largely due to his efforts.

By announcing his candidacy for the top party post, Tharoor has done something that is not easy for the Congress leaders in his home state to digest. The ecosystem of the Congress in the state has for long been such that the career politicians and ranks tend to see any move against the wishes of the Gandhi family as a grave breach of discipline. It is doubtful if the party big wigs in the state have even bothered to look into the issues pitched by Tharoor, let alone support his candidacy.

N Muraleedharan
N Muraleedharan
Senior Journalist from Kerala. Worked with leading news agency Press Trust of India. He is regular columnist and writes on politics of Kerala and National Politics.


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