Sonia Gandhi said there will be no "official" candidate for the Congress president election and that the Gandhi family will remain neutral in the race, party MP Shashi Tharoor told NDTV ahead of filing his nominations for the October 17 election.
Here's what he said in the exclusive interview:
- "I didn't go meet Sonia Gandhi to get any green light. It was the media. I went there to find out what was the official attitude to this."
- "Sonia Gandhi said 'elections are good for the party. You're most welcome to the elections'. She said there will be no official candidate and the entire family will remain neutral in the race."
- "I had the same conservation with Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and got the same message from them. Digivijaya Singh too got the same message from Sonia Gandhi."
- "I have been repeatedly told by Mrs Gandhi that was the perception problem and it was not them (on Ashok Gehlot being seen as the "official" candidate)."
- "I don't think there is an organisation called the 'G-23' except in the media's imagination. There happened to be a letter drafted by a couple of senior colleagues, who are no longer in the party, who invited others to sign. That letter happened to be signed by 23 leaders because during the Covid lockdown they were in Delhi."
- "I am not the candidate of the G-23. It's a myth, there's no such thing."
- "If there are people who don't want to look beyond my accent, they don't have to vote for me. If the implication is that I am some sort of elitist, then I have won three Lok Sabha elections - Thiruvananthapuram despite being the capital of Kerala is a 66% rural constituency."
- "I said we believe that the Gandhis' place in the Congress party, their inexplicable links with the DNA of the party is great. And there's no question of separating ourselves from them and their legacy. But if they don't want to be actively involved, I don't understand why the fear comes from."
- "There's no question about the appeal that the Gandhi family members have to the voting public. For the party not to use an asset like this will be foolish."
- "If Rahul Gandhi wanted to be the president, he could do it at the snap of his fingers. But he has chosen not to. So it's the implication of bad faith to suggest that having declined a job he could have had, he will interfere when other people are doing the job."
- "Decentralisation is my answer (to how to run Congress). Today, after submitting my nomination, I intend to release a manifesto putting forward certain principles for reviving the party. One of them will be to decentralise the functioning of the party."
- "For Congress to revive, what we have to offer is a party with a broad solid base of state leaders rather than the high command culture alone."
- "We have a stark distinction from the BJP and Mr (PM) Modi when it comes to ideology. We don't believe in demonisation of the minority that is overtly and covertly taking place."
- "Extremism and communalism of any community should be condemned. The Congress did the right thing in welcoming the ban on PFI (Popular Front of India)."
- "By Hinduism, we don't understand what the Savarkars and the Golwalkars did. We instead understand what Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, and other great Hindus have taught us."
- "Rahul Gandhi is an extremely good human being with a big heart and truly compassionate spirit. But he is perhaps sometimes that great spirit who doesn't always come across as somebody who is practical in terms of politics."
- "Prime Minister Narendra Modi's oratory is absolutely compelling and impressive, and is probably the finest speaker in Hindi the country has seen. But in some ways there's a disconnection between his oratory and implementation."