In his defeat, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor posed an uncomfortable question to G-23 leaders — he asked why they hadn’t stood by him despite his campaign for the Congress president’s election having been centred around the very recommendations that the group had made. He also asserted that he would continue to raise the issues on whatever forums were available to him.
Addressing a press conference at his Delhi home hours after the results were declared, where he was repeatedly asked whether he felt a sense of betrayal on being abandoned by the G-23 leaders at the outset of the campaign for this election, Mr. Tharoor said, “You will have to ask them why they didn’t stand by me.”
The moniker G-23 emerges from the 23 Congress leaders who signed a joint letter seeking reforms within the party, addressed to then Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “I will continue to raise the issues on whatever forums are available to me within the party. Of those who signed that particular letter, only one other person has stayed with me on upholding the various points we raised in the letter. And I would say that it would be silly to walk away from that. We were not an organisation of dissenters. There were a bunch of people who genuinely wanted a stronger Congress,” Mr. Tharoor said.
He said that by contesting the elections, his effort was to make a “good party better”. He also hoped Rajya Sabha MP Mallikarjun Kharge, who won the election, would ensure that the “disconnect” between the party’s leadership and workers was removed.
“All my gratitude is to the delegates who voted for me despite explicit instructions from their leaders,” Mr. Tharoor said. He asserted that Mr. Kharge’s victory was also the party’s victory and that they had been colleagues who would continue to work together in future too. “I didn’t pitch myself as a candidate for dissent. I pitched myself as a candidate for change. And change not in the ideology of the party or direction of the party rather than the manner in which we do regular work. I did feel that there was a need for opening up access to karyakartas in the party and creating more opportunities and discussion forums,” Mr. Tharoor said. The Congress, he said, did not lack experienced leaders or convictions and values that were right for the country.
Polling 1,072 votes, Mr. Tharoor secured a vote share similar to that in 1997 of Sharad Pawar, who had stood against Sitaram Kesri and Rajesh Pilot. He did not wish to get into the semantics of whether he was victorious in his defeat, saying that was for the others to analyse.
Over the last few years, Mr. Tharoor said many of his senior colleagues had met him, expressing concern over the working of the party, and added, “I am surprised to some degree that I do not see them standing on this side of the fence.” But at the same time, he said that it wasn’t surprising to see State leaderships standing by Mr. Kharge because the choice was between change and continuity. “Why would you want a change, when you are part of the continuity?” he asked.
Mr. Tharoor steered clear of blaming the election process in which many Pradesh Congress Committee presidents campaigned openly against him. “I don’t think we can say either that we are absolutely satisfied or that we have any reason to mistrust. The fact is that in an election of this nature after a gap of 22 years, there are bound to be glitches and slip-ups. The fact is that we never doubted the CEA [Congress’ central election authority],” he averred, while also stating that the leak of a letter that his team wrote to the authority on October 18 flagging certain malpractices during the polling was unfortunate.
“Through the campaign, we have been alerting the election authority to any violations that have been reported. They would have to then enquire and judge whether any action has to be taken. I am not aware whether any action has resulted in any of these letters,” he said.