Congress leader Shashi Tharoor today spoke on the election to the party president's post and other issues in a wide-ranging interview to NDTV.
Here are the highlights from Shashi Tharoor's interview at a special NDTV townhall in Mumbai:
On Congress president elections
The Gandhi family has made it clear, also through Mr Mistry, that there's no official candidate. I am assuming that there's no official candidate. But some people in the party are assuming that there's an official candidate.
I have to take the word of my party president and Gandhi family.
I always expected that there would be a senior candidate and senior leaders would rally behind him. And that's apparent with Mallikarjun Kharge's nomination form and his campaign trail. Wherever he goes, there are leaders. But wherever I am going, there are normal citizens.
#NDTVTownhallWithTharoor | "Wherever Kharge goes, there are grandees of Congress party. Wherever I go, there are ordinary karyakartas": @ShashiTharoor, Congress MP who is running for Congress president#NDTVExclusivepic.twitter.com/uEgFhjXtUW— NDTV (@ndtv) October 9, 2022
He (Rahul Gandhi) never asked me to withdraw. But had he asked me to, I had to say I am sorry. I have never run away from any challenge in my life.
On the fairness of Congress elections
I am running because I don't think we can have business as usual. We need a change not just inside the party but we need to demonstrate it to the public.
What drove the public, some senior leaders away from us? - And change in the party is a way to demonstrate that.
I can't say that it's a level playing field. There are some aspects that suggest an uneven playing field.
On reforms needed in Congress
I believe we (Congress) need to get back voters who didn't vote for us in 2014 and 2019.
Our principle [as against Mallikarjun Kharge] is different as to how to make the party ready for the elections. I believe that business as usual wouldn't work. So it's between business as usual and parivartan (change).
No such thing as G-23. I signed that letter which asked for a very specific thing. All those things in the letter are in my manifesto. Those who were supporting those points are not supporting this.
I want to decentralise our high command structure. I want to empower our grassroots. It is about re-energising the party by empowering the workers.
On the Elitist tag
I am not some sort of a rich man. I don't come from a rich family. My father was a salaried man. It's wrong to call me an elitist. Maybe am guilty of being rich in intellect.
I won three Lok Sabha elections in a constituency with support of the fisherfolk and adivasis, so give me a break about this talk of being elitist.
On Mallikarjun Kharge
He's a Dalit. If he wanted to bring about some change, he would have done it.
On the Gandhi family
The DNA of the Congress party and blood of the Nehru-Gandhi family has been inextricably intertwined.
Rahul Gandhi can be a great asset. I have been with him during the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra'. And I have seen scores of people from 6 in the morning to cheer for him.
On taking on BJP
I find it bizarre that BJP has a plank of nationalism where nobody from their has contributed to the nation's freedom struggle.
I am a bhakt of Vivekananda. His vision of Hinduism is something I have grown up with. It's about acceptance. It's - you accept my truth, I will accept yours.
Hinduism has nothing to do with Hindutva.
In a country of 80 per cent, BJP's vote share is 30 per cent. We are standing up of broad-minded Hindus.
On winning the vote of young people
I am not at all young enough to speak for them. So, I would hear their voices.
I have suggested moving a constitutional amendment to have a certain number of seats for people under the age of 30.
We have got to do much more on job creation and skill development.
On winning or losing the Congress president elections
Doesn't matter who wins. Whether Kharge wins or Tharoor wins, Congress party should win.
#NDTVTownhallWithTharoor | @ShashiTharoor, running for Congress President, takes Mumbai's questions pic.twitter.com/07RYbGXu6s— NDTV (@ndtv) October 9, 2022
If I were to lose, I would say that all the people who voted for me - are a voice that the party must heed.