Kochi: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who is running for the party president’s post, on Tuesday said he does not expect support from the big leaders even as he is requesting everyone's backing. Tharoor opened up his mind as he arrived in Thiruvananthapuram, his parliament constituency, as part of the poll campaigning.
His comment on the ‘big leaders’ comes in the wake of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K Sudhakaran openly extending his support to veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
A few days ago, Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan too declared his support for Kharge. Former Kerala Chief ministers A K Antony, Oommen Chandy and ex-Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala have also rallied behind Kharge, the 80-year-old leader from Karnataka, who contests the election with the undeclared support of the party high-command.
Asked whether Sudhakaran's public support for Kharge was meant to discourage the party delegates from supporting him, Tharoor said: "Maybe. But I am not saying that. I do not need to decipher what is going on in people's minds. I will say one thing, whatever one says secretly or publicly, the ballot is secret. No one is going to know who voted for whom. People can vote according to their wishes and beliefs. They can decide whom they want to strengthen the party and prepare it to counter the challenges it would face in the future."
The Thiruvananthapuram MP said the KPCC chief probably expressed his personal decision and preference and "there is nothing wrong with that."
Citing the circular issued by the party debarring party office-bearers from campaigning for candidates, Tharoor said Sudhakaran cannot give a direction to the state unit as to who the delegates should vote for. “But please don't ask me about it. If the election authority wants to do something about it, it is up to them," he said.
The election circular issued by the party on Monday said that AICC general secretaries/in-charges, secretaries, joint secretaries, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) presidents, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leaders, heads of frontal organisations, chiefs of departments, cells and official spokespersons "shall not campaign for or against contesting candidates."
"If they wish to support any candidate, they must first resign from their organisational post, after that they participate in the campaign process," the circular said.
Tharoor said he was not going to betray those who supported him till now in this endeavour of his by backing off from the election. "I was not expecting any support from the big leaders of the party and I am not expecting that now either. In fact, I met party workers at Nagpur, Wardha and then in Hyderabad. They are the ones asking me to contest and not back away from it. I assured them I will not back away. I will not betray those who have supported me till now. Their confidence in me is what gives me the strength to move forward," he said.
He also said that while the "majority of his supporters are young party leaders and party workers", he needs support from everyone and was not going to discount anyone.
The polling for the Congress presidential election will be held on October 17. The counting of votes will be taken up on October 19 and the results will be declared the same day. More than 9,000 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates will vote in the poll.
(With PTI inputs)