Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Friday said that no senior party leaders were present at an event that he attended in Tamil Nadu as part of his campaign for the party president’s post. He, however, said that he received a warm welcome there from Congress workers.

“At the ensuing press conference, media alleged that office-bearers were told to stay away,” Tharoor said on Twitter. “Interestingly dozens of ordinary citizens attended, to show me their support.”

Only a handful of office-bearers from the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee were present at the event on Thursday, according to The Hindu.

The Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram, however, reiterated that he would not withdraw his nomination from the election, in which he faces former Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, reported PTI.

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

Commenting on the absence of office-bearers from the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee at the event, Tharoor said that it was rather unfortunate that that party delegates were doubting the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the Gandhi family, according to The Hindu.

“I did see Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, and they said [they] will be neutral,” Tharoor said, reported The Hindu. “When they say that there would be free and fair elections, they [party delegates] must believe it. The chief election authority has said that it is not right to say there is an official candidate and that he [CEA Chairperson Madhusudhan Mistry] is going to ensure a totally secret ballot.”

On Thursday, the former Union minister released his manifesto for the elections at Sathyamurthy Bhavan, the Congress’ state headquarters in Tamil Nadu, reported PTI. The manifesto proposed to limit the term for state presidents and empower party workers to decentralise authority.

“We need to reform the way our party functions,” Tharoor said at the press conference. “We need to bring young people in the party and give them real authority. At the same time, we should give greater respect to hardworking and long-serving karyakartas.”

He also said that the contest between him and Kharge was friendly and based on different approaches to face the Bharatiya Janata Party, reported PTI.