The Indian National Congress presidential election is scheduled to be held on October 17. Senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge has joined the race for the top post while Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced that he is not contesting. Shashi Thaoor, Thiruvananthapuram MP, filed his nomination on Friday, September 30. In Kerala, KS Sabarinadhan is a staunch supporter of Tharoor in his race for the president post and is one among the 15 proposers from Kerala. Sabarinadhan is a former MLA and currently the vice-president of the Youth Congress in Kerala. He speaks to TNM on why he backs Tharoor and why the MP is an apt choice for the job.
Why did you decide to support Tharoorâ€™s candidature?
That is essentially because Congress is going through a lot of flux. The main reason for that unpredictability in the party is weâ€™re not able to ideologically associate ourselves with our past. So we need someone who can have ideological clarity and at the same time take a strong stand against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Tharoor is one of the most vocal voices against the BJP and someone who can bring different anti-BJP forces together. The party is facing challenges from new outfits like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too, in addition to BJP and others. Shashi Tharoor will be able to address this too.
We need somebody who talks about the Congressâ€™ glorious past and applies it in today;s context. We also need a leader who can energise the youth with our actions and programmes.
If elected, what is the biggest challenge that Tharoor will face?
If elected, what awaits Tharoor is the challenge of taking the party back to its past glory. The party is weak in most parts of the country, and work has to happen so that regional leaders are enabled to bring a leadership pipeline in all the states.
Tharoor is viewed more as an elite leader among the Congress lot, do you think he has a rapport with state leaders and their support?
Tharoor might look like an elite, I feel that he belongs to the Nehru stable of politics. He will be able to bring people together, and knowing his working style he can bring different ideas together and revive leadership at the regional level. He is always open for discussion and to dissent, which is a healthy sign.
Why would a non-Gandhi leader help the party at this moment?
The Gandhis are a pivotal family for the party. They have decided not to field anybody from the family. So if someone like Tharoor becomes the President, it will be a dual advantage of having leaders from the Gandhi family and other leaders at the forefront together.
It looks like a Tharoor vs Kharge battle â€“ two leaders from the south. How do you see this?
Iâ€™m very happy that there are two candidates from the south. This has reasserted the position of south India in Indian politics. May the best person win.
Leaders of the so-called G-23 like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal have quit the party. Will this affect Tharoorâ€™s chances?
They might have quit the Congress, but itâ€™s an advantage for Tharoor who has been fighting for the last 10 years for in-party democracy. He has taken a stand on several issues. He has been critical of the leadership but raised that criticism within the party. He has shown the courage of contesting the elections instead of walking away from the party. That courage will help him in the elections.
Coming to the Kerala unit, Tharoor does not seem to have everyoneâ€™s support. Does he still have the image of an outsider?
Tharoor has a fair following in the Kerala unit of the party. Personally, I know a lot of people, party supporters and workers, who are keen to have Tharoor as the AICC (All India Congress Committee) President. Iâ€™m sure that Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee members like me who represent the party cadre in Kerala will understand the wishes of the party workers and it will help Tharoorâ€™s chances.
Tharoor has built an image as an intellectual leader more than a mass leader. Is that what the party needs now?
The fact that Tharoor is not a mass leader is a fair point. But in the current situation, barring Rahul Gandhi we donâ€™t have a true ground-level mass leader, Tharoor comes a distant second. Tharoor has stronger local support than most of the other leaders we considered. Undoubtedly, Rahul Gandhi is the biggest face (of the party). They both will work together is what we hope.