Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday claimed that he was asked to contest the party’s presidential election by Sonia Gandhi, PTI reported.

The Rajya Sabha MP said that Gandhi had called him to her home and asked him to lead the Congress. “I told her that I can suggest three names but she said that she was not asking for names,” he said.

Kharge made the remarks while addressing members of the Congress units in the North East in Guwahati.

The election to decide the new president of Congress will take place on October 17 and the results will be announced two days later. Kharge is facing Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor in the polls.

At Monday’s event, Kharge said that if elected, he will implement the resolutions undertaken by the Congress during a three-day meeting in Udaipur in May, including granting 50% of tickets in elections to those aged under 50 years.

“I believe in consultation and collective leadership,” Khare said, according to PTI. “… I don’t believe in people following me but want them to walk beside me. Together, we will work to strengthen the organisational set-up of the party.”

The former Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha also said that he agreed to contest the poll as no member of the Gandhi family was willing to take over as the party president.

“The Congress has to protect the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, which was earlier taken forward by Indira and Rajiv Gandhi,” he said. “It is our duty to listen to Sonia Gandhi who has knowledge and experience after being at the helm of the party for 20 years.”

Many in Congress told to support Kharge, claims Shashi Tharoor

Congress presidential candidate Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday claimed that many electors have been instructed by “their leaders” to support his rival Kharge in the polls.

In an interview with PTI, Tharoor said that those expecting a one-sided victory in the election would be in for a surprise on the result day.

“I certainly know that many who have not openly supported me so far…have privately expressed support,” he said. “Many such people may eventually choose to cast their vote in my favour.”

Tharoor added that the election is not a battle between rivals but a friendly contest between colleagues who have different visions on how to take the party forward, he said.