Kharge has said Tharoor rejected his suggestion for a consensus candidate
The Congress has finally entered the election mode with two candidates engaged in a straight fight for the post of president of the All India Congress Committee. Mallikarjun Kharge, the 80-year-old trade union leader, parliamentarian and administrator will take on a younger Shashi Tharoor, the UN diplomat-turned politician, three-time MP, writer, speaker and eminent parliamentarian.
The grand old party of Indian politics makes no claim that it has an unequivocal commitment to democratic processes when it comes to its internal dynamics in the last five decades. The Gandhi family is the pole position most of the time, and the two persons who came in between, P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991 and Sitaram Kesri in 1996, had to vacate the posts in unpleasant circumstances. There has not been much change since then: Sonia Gandhi who succeeded Kesri gave way to her son Rahul Gandhi only to return to the job after the Gandhi scion quit midway. Both Mr Kharge and Mr Tharoor have made it clear that they are in the fray only because none from the Gandhi family wants to become party chief now, reasserting the family’s pre-eminence in the party.
Mr Tharoor’s claims that Mrs Gandhi assured him there is no official candidate do not inspire much confidence as the events that preceded the finalisation of the candidates suggest something else. Mr Kharge appeared on the scene only after Ashok Gehlot refused to toe the high command line and leave his present job as Rajasthan Chief Minister. It is too obvious his moves found no favour with the high command and hence the candidature of Mr Kharge.
Mr Kharge has said Mr Tharoor rejected his suggestion for a consensus candidate. It points to the sad fact that even the potential AICC president is not a votary of the democratic process. Many who follow the party rue the nomination and consensus culture for it favours ‘yes men’ and throttles merit and hard work. An election gives the voter a choice, and a say in the affairs of the party and hence is the first step in the democratic process. Mr Tharoor, who has never been an organisation man, deserves a pat in the back for standing firm.
But his statement that those who root for change in the party would support him betrays the eminent communicator’s disconnect with the party rank and file. For one, politics does not change overnight in a democracy; it’s a process. The 138-year-old Congress essentially reflects the centrist politics and has no distinct ideology. With Mr Gandhi on the street walking, meeting thousands of people every day and taking on the BJP government, he would continue to call the shots in the party, irrespective of who becomes the AICC president. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose won the presidentship defeating the candidate of Mahatma Gandhi in 1939 but could not take his ideas forward. History is an eminent teacher, and it pays to be its disciple.
A vibrant Opposition is a necessary condition for the survival of democracy. The success of the presidential election process, along with the Bharat Jodo Yatra, should contribute to it.