This Article is From Oct 13, 2022

"Gandhis Don't Remote-Control, Will Consult Them": M Kharge To NDTV

Mallikarjun Kharge also denied that he is the "official" candidate for Congress president with the Gandhis' backing.

Mallikarjun Kharge said he will consult Gandhis for "everything that will benefit the party".

New Delhi:

Mallikarjun Kharge, who is running for Congress president, today denied any "remote control" by the Gandhis but asserted that he would consult them for "everything that will benefit the party".

"I will consult with them because that is very important. I will consult them to build the party," Mr Kharge told NDTV in an exclusive interview.

"They are not remote controlling...Those who say this are doing it just to defame the Gandhi family. They don't want their contributions to be acknowledged."

The senior Congress leader, who is almost certain to be elected party president, said he couldn't possibly "ignore" the Gandhis after taking charge.

"I have to consult everybody, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi. They are playing their role. Rahul Gandhi is walking day and night to strengthen the party - should I not recognize it? Sonia Gandhi refused the PM's post, should I ignore that? She has the experience of leading the party for nearly 20 years."

Mr Kharge denied that he is the "official" candidate for Congress president with the Gandhis' backing. The perception "is wrong", he insisted.

The 80-year-old Congress veteran was a late entry to the contest after days of drama surrounding Ashok Gehlot, who was believed to be the Gandhis' first choice to take over the party's reins from Sonia Gandhi.

Ashok Gehlot, evidently reluctant to give up the role of Rajasthan Chief Minister, opted out after apologising to Sonia Gandhi for the embarrassing rebellion by MLAs loyal to him against his rival Sachin Pilot. Soon after, Mr Kharge emerged as the new candidate. Shashi Tharoor is the other prominent candidate in the Congress chief polls to be held on Monday.   

He said he found out just 24 hours before the nominations closed that he would contest.

"All delegates, senior leaders told me that when the Gandhis are not contesting, then I should contest. There was no word from the Gandhis. They openly declared anyone is free to contest," Mr Kharge said, adding that he had never thought about contesting earlier.

"I agreed to contest as I don't want to be seen like I am the Leader of Opposition and I am not ready to give up that position. I didn't want to send out the wrong signal."

He refused to name the leaders who had urged him to run for Congress chief.

"Delegates, senior leaders phoned me. They are people who matter in the organisation, who have some strength in the party," he said.

Mr Kharge waved aside his rival Shashi Tharoor's grouse about a poor response to his campaign because of "pressure from top" to support the "official" candidate.

"If my campaigners are asking people to support me, what can I do? Should I say you meet somebody else?"

On the "pressure to support" claim, Mr Kharge said: "That is very wrong. This is spreading wrong information, creating a misunderstanding."

Mr Kharge also strongly contested Mr Tharoor's suggestion that only he could bring about the drastic changes that the Congress needs for its revival. He said his priority would be to implement that party's "Udaipur declaration" for reforms that includes a "one man, one post" rule and 50 per cent election candidates under 50 years.

"What experience he has the organization knows. I have worked as an MLA, state minister, state Congress chief...I worked nearly 20 years as a minister. That is my record," he said.