Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday rejected claims that party chief Rahul Gandhi was hedging his bets by contesting from Kerala's Wayanad, in addition to Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. The truth, he maintained, was quite the opposite.
"Rahul Gandhi is actually trying to demonstrate that he - as a candidate poised to be the next Prime Minister of India - enjoys electability in both North and South India. It's a swipe at Narendra Modi, who we all know has absolutely no chance of winning in the South," the Congress parliamentarian from Thiruvananthapuram said.
Mr Tharoor said that a Prime Minister must ideally be acceptable to people across the country. "The BJP should know that if you want to rule all of India, you should belong to all of India. And the BJP really has very little place here. Does Narendra Modi have the courage to try winning in both North and South?" he asked.
Soon after Rahul Gandhi's decision was announced on Sunday morning, the Aam Aadmi Party asked the Congress to clarify if it was under pressure from the Narendra Modi government to split anti-BJP votes. "There appears to be a contradiction between the publicly stated strategy of the Congress of getting rid of the Modi government and its intentions," party leader Gopal Rai said, adding that it was curious why the Congress chose a state where the BJP has very little presence.
The ruling CPI(M), on the other hand, was believed to be seriously offended by Rahul Gandhi's move at a time when all non-BJP parties were expected to stick together. While there was no official reaction from the party's state unit, senior leader Prakash Karat said they would "work to ensure the defeat of Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad".
Mr Tharoor, however, claimed that it was a "bit rich" of the Left to complain about Rahul Gandhi opposing them when "they are busy opposing Rahul Gandhi's men and women" across Kerala. "As long as the Left remains the Congress' enemy here, I believe that every party leader should stand up firmly against the politics of violence practised by the Left in Kerala," he asserted.
The Congress leader said that while his party and the Left were not in any kind of alliance, they stand together in opposing the "absolutely communal" BJP. "But, from our point of view, we are in strong opposition to the Left in Thiruvananthapuram. I am not prepared to give them any quarter, and I certainly hope that Rahul Gandhi does not either," he added.
Mr Tharoor, who will be facing the BJP's Kummanam Rajasekharan in Thiruvananthapuram, will file his nomination papers on Monday.
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