New Delhi: With a few more days left to drop out of the race to the All-India Congress Committee (AICC)'s top post, Shashi Tharoor, MP, is firm on contesting. The last date for withdrawing the nomination papers for the AICC presidential election is on October 8.
Tharoor firmly believes that the Gandhis — interim party president Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, MP, — would take an impartial stand during the poll.
Though Sonia Gandhi has stated that she would adopt a neutral stand, Mallikarjun Kharge has been considered the official candidate of the high command.
"There is no official candidate. Sonia has told me that she won't endorse anyone. I take her word for granted. I was also told that the entire Gandhi family will adopt an impartial stand. Madhusudan Mistry, the party's Central Election Authority Chairman, too, has reiterated that polls would be impartial," the Thiruvananthapuram MP asserted.
Tharoor even expressed willingness for an open debate with his rival candidate. Such a debate, Tharoor felt, would further promote the people's interest in the Congress.
His rival candidate Mallikarjun Kharge, however, refused to be drawn into a debate. Responding to Tharoor, Kharge said he was more interested in action rather than engaging in a debate.
Here's Tharoor's interview with Manorama:
You have tough challenges ahead.
Sixty people from 12 states backed me by signing my nomination papers. I will present to voters what I could do for the Congress. I hope that they will back my efforts to usher in a change.
There are indications that the party leadership might force a compromise and make you withdraw the nomination.
I will definitely contest. I won't let down those who trusted and supported me.
What if Sonia interfered? What if a post is offered to you?
The time for offering a post has gone by. I am not contesting for myself. Can I drop out of the race after putting in all these efforts? The election is not a joke. It's a serious issue.
KPCC president K Sudhakaran had earlier said that his would be a conscience vote. Do you expect to win more votes?
Definitely. All are entitled to a free vote. Madhusudan Mistry has also clarified that no PCC (Pradesh Comgress Committee) would be allowed to pass a resolution backing any particular candidate.
The official faction is with Kharge. There is a possibility that you will be branded as a rebel in future.
Some are saying so. I have met all three members of the Gandhi family. The message I got was to go ahead and contest. They said that an election will benefit the party. If things take a turn after the polls, we will see it then.
There are complaints over the identity of voters included in the electoral rolls in some states like UP.
Yes, it's true. The voters' list in some states has only the names of the voters and not their phone numbers. Their addresses are not complete. In this circumstance, it is difficult to identify the voters. I am not entirely satisfied with the current organisational election process. Once you have decided to play cricket, you cannot change the pitch. You have to play on the available pitch.
The reformists, G-23 leaders, have announced their support for Kharge. G-23, which once demanded an organisation poll, is now demanding a compromise.
The group had earlier written to the leadership demanding the election. I came forward to realise that demand. But instead of supporting me, they are now seeking the status quo. What should I say about them? There was no G-23. It was a group that decided to write to the leadership, raising several demands in 2020. Only 23 people were then available in Delhi to sign the memorandum due to COVID-19; that's how it came to be known as G-23.