Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Saturday said he was told by the Gandhi family that there is no “official” candidate in the party president’s election and they will stay neutral.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP also hinted that he will not withdraw from the poll race, saying he cannot betray his supporters.
Tharoor launched his campaign for the party president’s election by visiting the Deekshabhoomi monument where B R Ambedkar embraced Buddhism with his followers on October 14, 1956.
Tharoor and party veteran Mallikarjun Kharge are in the fray for the election, scheduled on October 17 in the event of none of them withdrawing.
“I had met with all three (Sonia, Rahul, and Priyanka) from the Gandhi family. They repeatedly told me there is no official candidate in the party president’s election and there will be no such candidate. They want a good and fair election. The Gandhi family will be neutral and the party machinery impartial. They want a good election and the party to be strengthened. I don’t have any doubts when the party president assured me,” he told reporters.
He was responding to a query on whether Kharge is the choice of the Gandhi family and their favourite candidate.
“It is the election between colleagues. There is no enmity or war. It is a friendly contest. We are appealing for support by putting forth our resolutions,” the Congress leader said.
Queried on whether the election will be unopposed, Tharoor said, “My question is how can I betray so many people who have shown confidence in me and supported me. I won’t leave them”.
Tharoor said people may judge him as an underdog and think it will be a difficult contest for him, but asserted that he never ran away from difficulties.
“I was asked by common party workers to contest. The common workers of Congress want a change in the party and I want to become their voice and also the voice of youth Congress,” Tharoor said, adding that he is confident of his prospects in the election and there are people in the party who support him.
According to a notification issued by the party on Thursday, the process for filing nominations for the election was from September 24 to 30.
Tharoor had filed nominations on Friday, the last day of the process.
The withdrawal of nominations is allowed till October 8 and the final list of candidates will be out at 5 pm on the same day.
The polling, if needed, 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.
When asked about the nature of changes required in the Congress party, Tharoor listed decentralisation (of power), empowering the lower ranks up to mandal, zilla and state level and empowering the common workers.
He was a part of the Congress’s G-23 group that demanded an organisational overhaul and elections at all levels of the party.
During his Nagpur visit, Tharoor released the first copy of his newly-published book “Ambedkar: A Life”.
On Sunday, Tharoor will visit Mahatma Gandhi’s Sewagram Ashram at Wardha at 9 am and later go to Vinoba Bhave’s Ashram in Pavnar. He will return to Nagpur by 12.45 pm and hold meetings with senior Congress leaders, the party’s state unit members and workers.