And then there were two. Shashi Tharoor has weathered talk of a ‘foregone conclusion’, pressure to support ‘consensus’ candidate and accusations of being an ‘elitist’ to still be an additional man standing as a contender for the post of Congress president. As a three -time sitting MP from Thiruvananthapuram, he makes the last argument at least redundant if not also superfluous.
A former UN diplomat and an author who sends the dictionary scrambling, Tharoor ticks many other boxes, his recall value is pan-India — a claim very few contemporary Congress leaders can make.
Nor can anyone quite takedown the colonial British as he has, brownie points in an era of hyper nationalism. Tharoor’s media savvy image is also in sync with the modern day politics that is played equally on the campaign trail as it is offline.
In a country where 40% of the population is aged 13-35, Tharoor, 66, still has the attention of the youth. The Kerala MP admits that although he may not have the support of party heavyweights for the election, young party leaders and party workers are keeping him motivated.
The latest name to not put his might with Tharoor is from his own state, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K Sudhakaran.
Most political analysts feel the script is already written and there is no suspense in the ending. It is tough to contest that. Ashok Gehlot, the chosen one thumped his nose at the high command when asked to choose between his chief ministerial seat of power and power for Gandhis’ sake.
Kamal Nath outrightly refused and veteran leader Digvijaya Singh withdrew his hat from the ring, all now support the man in the driver’s seat and Tharoor’s opponent in this intra party elections, Mallikarjun Kharge.
They are all aware that on this road there will be back seat driving. Several members of the disgruntled G-23 that had demanded organisational reforms in the party are not supporting Tharoor.
Pan India connect vs High Command blessings
Tharoor isn’t young but at 80, Kharge who has resigned as the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha gives more back to the future vibes than any signs of taking the party into the future because age may just be a number but sometimes that number does add up.
With him at the helm, the party will have freshness infused like sunshine on a polluted December Delhi day. Congress needs to keep building on the gains of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra specially when its impact could be challenged as it moves upwards to Central India and beyond.
Kharge’s promises of strengthening the party isn’t significant, his importance lies in being a Gandhi family loyalist and accepting of the crown of thorns, the same one that Ashok Gehlot played passing the parcel with. Kharge interprets this as the family’s blessings.
Congress loyalists say unlike other political parties there is a contest, and Tharoor with his ‘Think tomorrow, think Tharoor’ manifesto is fighting the good fight. Unfortunately, no exit polls are required.
But dismissing Tharoor as being weak in the Hindi speaking belt would make sense if his opponent was Yogi Adityanath. Kharge himself is a veteran politician from India’s southern state of Karnataka and his ostensible elevation could put some stability in Karnataka Congress. As for the rest, he is likely to be his master’s voice.
That Kharge is a Dalit is a card that cannot go wrong, but there was also once a Charanjit Singh Channi in Punjab, no one has seen or heard of him in recent months.
After his own rebellion over kissa kursi ka, Rajasthan Chief Minister Gehlot has far from hunkered down. His support for Kharge is based on the reverse snobbery that Tharoor is from an ‘elite class’ a tag that is almost derogatorily fashionable these days.
The well- educated or those of good means are almost being made to apologise for what or who they are, Mohua Moitra’s Louis Vuitton bag made more headlines than what doesn’t happen in Parliament. This though will not include India’s richest 1% who are making their fortunes overnight.
It was Indira Gandhi who centralised power in the Congress to such an extent that she and the party became interchangeable.
Under Sonia Gandhi, no chief minister of a state was allowed to become more powerful than the Congress president. Unless there is a last minute twist on Oct. 17, Kharge’s elevation will play to the plan where Rahul Gandhi will continue to be the man at the window.
With great power comes great responsibility, Kharge can only hope to get the responsibility.