Why Congress’ G-23 is backing ‘Gandhi candidate’ Kharge for party president over Tharoor

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New Delhi: Leaders of the Congress’ dissident group, the G-23, have backed Mallikarjun Kharge in the upcoming party presidential polls. Leaders still part of the group — Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma, Prithviraj Chavan and Bhupinder Hooda — Friday signed the nomination form of Kharge, who is being seen as the Gandhi family’s preferred candidate in the election.

The decision came after a meeting of the four leaders at Sharma’s residence Thursday night.

This is significant since MP Shashi Tharoor, the other candidate in the election, was a part of the G-23 — a group of 23 Congress leaders who had written to Sonia Gandhi in August 2020 seeking structural changes in the party.

Speaking to ThePrint, Chavan said the demands of the group had been fulfilled.

“Two years ago, we had written a letter to Ms Sonia Gandhi after Rahul Gandhi resigned as president in 2019. We had two demands. First, that there should be a visible full-time president and second, there should be elections for the post of president. Though two years late, it is happening now,” said Chavan.

Sources close to the group, however, said the decision to support Kharge was spurred by the fact that Tharoor did not seek support from the G-23 leaders after deciding to contest.

“He had spoken to the group earlier but it was to find out whether or not anyone else was contesting. After he made up his mind, he never spoke to them to seek support,” said the source.

Another source added that Tharoor was “never a proper part” of the G-23.

Speaking on why Kharge — a Gandhi family loyalist — received the support of the group when many within had raised concerns of this being a “proxy election”, the source said there was “no comparison” between Kharge and Tharoor in the group’s mind.

“Kharge has been an organisational man. He has an understanding of what the workers want and can communicate with them. This is an onerous task that will require the elected president to travel across the country. Tharoor hasn’t been in the party for as long as Kharge,” the source said.

“But Kharge’s age will be an impediment. He is almost 80 so he may not be able to take the physical pressure,” the source added.

When asked about the same after his nomination, Tharoor deflected the question saying that the G-23 is just a group of leaders who had written one letter and that it cannot be treated as a group even now.

“Every delegate of the party has the right to rally behind who they see fit,” he said.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: Gehlot pulls out of race for Congress chief, takes ‘moral responsibility’ for Rajasthan fiasco


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