Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has emerged as the favourite for the party’s presidential poll among the cadres in Tamil Nadu after a majority shunned a meeting called by fellow contestant Shashi Tharoor.
Of the 710 voters in the Congress electoral college from Tamil Nadu, a handful attended the meeting convened by Tharoor to seek support for his candidature at the state Congress headquarters, Satyamoorthi Bhavan on Thursday.
While Kharge has not yet commenced his journey in Tamil Nadu, it was clear in the response that Tharoor received in the state as to which side the wind was blowing.
Kharge, who has more than six decades of grassroots political experience, is a highly respected Dalit face of the party. While the Gandhi family has not openly favoured any candidate in the Congress presidential poll, it is a certainty that the family was backing Kharge. The absence of almost all the senior leaders of the party when Shashi Tharoor arrived at Satyamoorthi Bhavan is a pointer that Kharge is the preferred one.
A senior leader of the Congress party, who was a former MP while speaking to IANS, said, “Ordinary party workers will not support Tharoor as there is a feeling that he is inaccessible and out of reach to ordinary party workers. The feedback we receive from his home constituency, Thiruvananthapuram is that he won’t meet common people and has always been seen as an elite.”
He added that Congressmen don’t prefer elite leaders and want grassroots-level, down-to-earth people who know the pulse of the society to run the organisation.
However, the educated middle class youths had reached Satyamoorthi Bhavan to throw their support to Tharoor, who are not on the electoral list of the Congress party and their support cannot garner votes for the Thiruvananthapuram MP.
Another senior leader of the Congress party, who was a state office-bearer of the party while speaking to IANS, said, “Tharoor may be good to be projected to the outside world. He is suave, well-mannered, speaks good English, and has global contacts. But the moot point is what does that fetch for the party. People prefer someone who is connected with the grassroots and with cadres. The cadres and sympathizers don’t understand the language of diplomacy, they want someone who knows them and their feelings, and Kharge is miles ahead in that.”
With the battle lines drawn, a senior leader in the Congress told IANS that it is a wonder if Tharoor could fetch a sizeable vote share from a total of 710 votes for the AICC president election from Tamil Nadu.