Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is contesting in the party’s presidential poll, on Sunday said that he told his fellow contender Shashi Tharoor that “it is much better to have a consensus candidate”, reported PTI. Tharoor, he added, insisted that they should contest the election for the “sake of democracy”.

At a press conference in Delhi a day after resigning as Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha in line with the party’s “one person, one post” rule, Kharge said he has entered the race to strengthen the Congress and not to oppose anyone.

The 80-year-old added that if he becomes the party president, he will consult the Gandhi family and other senior leaders to implement the steps suggested by them. “The status quo and change that Tharoor has been talking about will be decided by the delegates and the All India Congress Committee,” Kharge said. “One person will not be taking the calls, it’ll be taken collectively.”

The senior Congress leader said that his colleagues from the party encouraged him to contest the presidential poll since Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra do not want to become the party president.

“There is unemployment, inflation is rising, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and all promises of the Bharatiya Janata Party remain unfulfilled,” he said at the press conference. “I will always work to take forward party’s principles and ideology.”

Several Congress leaders have backed Kharge’s candidature. Bhupinder Hooda, Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari and Prithviraj Chavan from the group of 23, who had written to Sonia Gandhi in 2020 seeking large scale organisational reforms, have also supported Kharge, reported PTI.

Tharoor says he represents change in Congress

Tharoor, also part of the G-23, on Sunday said that he respects Kharge as the senior leader of the Congress but only he can bring the required changes in the party, reported ANI.

While addressing party workers at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in Nagpur on Sunday, the Lok Sabha MP said that the Congress presidential poll is not a war.

“Some people are saying that Kharge is a senior leader, and why don’t I get out of the race for him?” Tharoor said. “I respect Kharge, but it’s a poll for our party’s future. There are differences in the way we want to take the party forward.”

When asked if he was open to a public debate between the party’s presidential candidates, similar to what happens in many western democracies, Tharoor said, “I would be open to the idea.”

The former diplomat added that leaders like Kharge cannot introduce changes in the way the Congress functions and will continue with the existing system. “I will bring the change as per the expectations of party workers,” Tharoor said.

The election to decide the successor to the longest-serving party president Sonia Gandhi will take place on October 17. The results will be announced two days later.