Shashi Tharoor, MP, apparently faces a steep challenge in wooing Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) colleagues in his bid to win the All India Congress Committee (AICC) presidential polls.
There were early indications on Tuesday that Mr. Tharoor's candidature could cause dissent in some measure in the party's State unit. In an FB post, a District Congress Committee (DCC) office-bearer accused Mr. Tharoor of leading an ivory tower existence far removed from the trials and travails of party workers.
He charged the MP’s office in Thiruvananthapuram with chronic dysfunction and voter disconnect. “Leadership is an action, not position,” he said.
Former KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran was openly critical of Mr. Tharoor's candidature. He accused Mr. Tharoor of being politically erratic and, at times, favouring the Left Democratic Front's agenda.
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Congress veteran T. Sarathchandra Prasad had reportedly criticised KPCC president K. Sudhakaran for allegedly calling for a "conscience vote" in the event of Mr. Tharoor's candidature, a position arguably not in variance with the AICC's stated view.
However, Mr. Tharoor's supporters appeared confident that the Gandhi family's imprimatur will offset his perceived organisational weaknesses.
Mr. Tharoor has claimed the Gandhi family's support. He told reporters in Palakkad on Monday he had backers in several Pradesh Congress Committees (PCC) and would submit his nomination on September 30.
Mr. Tharoor said the ensuing election campaign would reveal the quantum of support he enjoyed in the party. He had travelled to Palakkad to join Mr. Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra.
With the Congress insisting that contestants send in their nominations by September 30, seemingly messy negotiations are reportedly on at the AICC level to nominate a consensus candidate after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot demurred. The AICC has summoned veteran leader A.K. Antony to New Delhi.
A KPCC official said potential contestants for the leadership race included Mr. Tharoor, Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge, Mukul Vasnik and Sushil Kumar Shinde. So far, neither AICC president Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi have indicated their preference.
“The party in Kerala expects the AICC to subtly message its choice before the KPCC’s 310 strong electoral college casts its vote,” he said.