The gloves appear to be off in the Congress presidential tie between Shashi Tharoor and Mallikarjun Kharge.
In a flurry of media interactions during his two-day campaigning in Kerala, Mr. Tharoor hinted that he might move the Chief Election Officer (CEO) Madhusudhan Mistry against Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) office bearers who had openly pitched for his opponent Mallikarjun Kharge.
Organisational election rules
Mr. Tharoor said the organisational election rules mandated that Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) office bearers stay above the electoral fray or resign and campaign.
“Secret ballot and conscience vote is the Congress leadership’s mantra.” He reiterated the All India Congress Committee (AICC) had no official candidate. “The leaders who openly take sides in the contest challenge AICC president Sonia Gandhi’s writ.”
Mr. Tharoor's reaction came a day after KPCC president K. Sudhakaran threw in his lot with Mr. Kharge. Mr. Sudhakaran had earlier called for a conscience vote in the event of a contest, a line in congruence with the AICC's stated position. However, Mr. Sudhakaran later flip-flopped and plumped for Mr. Kharge.
KPCC veterans supporting Kharge
A row of KPCC veterans had lined up in quick succession behind Mr. Kharge in the run-up to Mr. Tharoor's election campaign in Kerala.
Ramesh Chennithala, who supposedly helms the powerful I-faction that boasts considerable clout in the 281-member general body, has stated that he would vote for Mr. Kharge.
He would also campaign for Mr. Kharge in Gujurat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana PCCs. "Tharoor is a friend. But organisational experience is a critical criterion for party leadership", he said. Other leaders have also echoed a similar sentiment.
Empty KPCC headquarters
The KPCC headquarters at Indira Bhavan was ominously empty of senior leaders when Mr. Tharoor arrived to campaign there on Tuesday.
If media reports were accurate, Mr. Tharoor said an influential AICC member was campaigning for Mr. Kharge in Kerala.
Mr. Tharoor defended his middle-class background and secular credentials. The stiffest opposition to his candidature was from Kerala. Mr. Tharoor added he had no bone of jealousy in his body. He swore his loyalty to Congress and ruled out any question of quitting.