NEW DELHI, Oct 2: The candidate for the Congress presidential poll Mallikarjun Kharge on Sunday refuted the claim that he was the “establishment candidate: and was being backed by the “Gandhis.” He said Gandhis were neutral and were not backing ether him or the other contestant Shashi Tharoor in the party presidential poll.
Kharge said he decided to contest at the urging of the senior and young leaders like. He said he was contesting for the Congress ideology and to strengthen the party and not for or against anyone.
He added: “I’m starting my election campaign on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri. I’ve always fought and struggled for my ideology and ethics. I’ve been Leader of the Opposition, minister and MLA for several years. I want to fight again now and take forward those same ethics and ideology.”
Attacking the BJP government, he said “There is unemployment, inflation is rising, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and all promises of the BJP remain unfulfilled.” Mr. Kharge addressed the press conference flanked by Deepender Hooda, Syed Naseer Hussain and Gourav Vallabh. Mr. Vallabh said he along with Mr. Hooda and Mr. Hussain has resigned as Congress spokespersons, and will campaign for Mr. Kharge in the AICC president polls.
Asked about Shashi Tharoor’s remarks that he is a candidate for change while Mr. Kharge is a candidate of continuity and status quo, Mr. Kharge said after polls any decision for reform will be taken jointly and not by one person.
Kharge said he had told Shashi Tharoor that “it is much better to have a consensus candidate for the president’s post”. Explaining the reason behind his decision to contest the election, he said: “As Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi didn’t want to fight the elections, I was asked by my senior colleagues to contest the elections. I’m not fighting against anyone. I’m fighting for the ideology of the Congress party.”
He further said: “The status quo and change that Dr Tharoor has been talking about will be decided by the delegates and the All India Congress Committee. One person will not be taking the calls, it’ll be taken collectively.”
Meanwhile, the Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot who at one time was considered the Gandhis’ choice for the presidential post, in explaining why he decided to drop out from the contest, said he felt it would be improper for him to desert those 102 MLAs who stood thick and thin with him and saved the Congress government when Sachin pilot led legislators had revolted in 2020.
Defending his loyalist MLAs who staged a high-powered drama on the replacement for the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Gehlot said he could not ditch the 102 MLAs who saved his government. On whether the Chief Minister could still be changed, Gehlot said it would be for the Congress high command to decide but he appeared to be firm in his decision to block the advent of Sachin Pilot. “I am doing my work and if a decision has to be taken, it is for the party high command to take,” he said. However, the Chief Minister’s public outreach suggest he is determined to stay on.
Attacking the legislators who had revolted against him in 2020, he said they were hand-in-glove with the BJP. “Some of our MLAs met Amit Shah, Dharmendra Pradhan and other leaders. Amit Shah was offering sweets to our MLAs. So, how can I forget those 102 MLAs who saved the Congress government,” he said. “I have got public support whenever I needed, be it during the political crisis or during corona. Therefore, how can I stay away from them,” he added.
Without naming Sachin Pilot, Gehlot hinted that he should be investigated for anti-party activities. It should be looked into as to why there was resentment among MLAs over the name of a new Chief Minister in the state, he said. Mr Pilot hasn’t been subtle in expressing his aspiration for the top job, and Mr Gehlot’s remarks are a veiled accusation against the young leader.