After refusing to agree to the selection of Congress president based on consensus, MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor, who is facing an uphill contest against veteran Karnataka leader Mallikarjun Kharge in the elections for the post of the president of Indian National Congress (INC), scheduled on October 17, will be in Chennai on Thursday to seek the support of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) delegates.
This will be Mr. Tharoor’s fourth stop in his campaign. He is expected to meet the delegates after an interaction with students of IIT Madras. Mr. Tharoor has promised to decentralise decision making in the party, hold free elections for the post of Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chiefs and elect members of the Central Working Committee. Mr. Tharoor’s name was proposed by Karti Chidambaram, son of former Union Minister P. Chidambaram, and his supporters from Tamil Nadu.
Arul Pethiah, general secretary, TNCC, who was among those who proposed Mr. Tharoor’s name, said mobilising delegates in a short period of time was proving to be a challenge. “We are expecting around 75 delegates to meet and greet Mr. Tharoor in Chennai tomorrow. It may go up to a 100,” he said. The fact that Mr. Kharge is being projected as a candidate of INC president Sonia Gandhi, despite clarification that he is not the “official candidate”, could make a section of delegates uncomfortable about meeting him. “However, at least 200 delegates we spoke to, as of today, have told us that they would vote for Mr. Tharoor in the elections even if they cannot support him in person,” he claimed.
Another long-time TNCC leader said there was a strong feeling in the party that it was “better not to be seen” with Mr. Tharoor in Chennai. “Nobody wants to be seen as going against the party establishment and its [deemed] candidate, Mr. Kharge. I would like to see how many people are going to come,” he said.
According to a TNCC office-bearer, the party had given strict instructions to the PCC chiefs and office-bearers not to side with any candidate in the elections. “We have been told not to campaign for any candidate in our official capacities. We have been told to resign our party positions and then campaign,” said the office-bearer.