Kharge to hold out for Rahul Gandhi in Congress Prez poll


Mallikarjuna Kharge Pix credit Twitter Supriya Bhardwaj

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, September 30: Eighty years old Mallikarjuna Kharge, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, is the ‘official’ candidate in the Congress president election. He is being challenged by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, 66, who wants to bring back the voters who have drifted away from the Opposition party.

Searching hard for a loyalist who wouldn’t fail the Gandhis, the party high command finally zeroed in on Kharge after discussing names such as Kamal Nath and Digivijaya Singh. Kharge has come in the picture after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot made it clear that for him the seat of power in Jaipur was far more important than taking a room on 24, Akbar Road to infuse life in Congress.

Tharoor remains buoyed up with a contest, which he calls friendly, and is ready even with a manifesto for the voters, the electoral college for the poll. Tharoor, who is relatively a newcomer in Congress, has said that he would work for making the leadership accessible to the party workers, besides ensuring that there is decentralization of the decision making process.

“We have to bring back the voters who drifted away from the party,” Tharoor has said, while he has managed the necessary endorsements for filing the nomination papers.

Kharge should win the contest comfortably, since he has also been accepted by the G23 dissidents within the party, who look at Tharoor with skepticism.

In the first tenure of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the Centre, Kharge was the leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha. He hails from Karnataka, which is bracing up for the Assembly elections next year. Kharge is also a Dalit leader.

His performance in the Lok Sabha was as good as it’s the case of his successor Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, with Congress flock struggling to make their presence felt in the lower House amid overwhelming majority of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Kharge being too senior in the party and while also not being a mass leader is easily acceptable to the dissidents such as Manish Tewari, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Anand Sharma.

He was also a Minister for Railways in the Manmohan Singh government, while Kharge had also held portfolios such as labour. In Parliament, he struggles with Hindi, but insists speaking in the language.

Kharge is expected to a listening post for the G23, while he would keep the chair warm for Rahul Gandhi, who is leading the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’.

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