Kerala Congress chief Mullapally Radhakrishnan on Friday stepped in to stop an attack on party colleague Shashi Tharoor over the “dissent letter” written to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the Hindustan Times reported. Tharoor was one of the 23 signatories to the letter. The letter had called for radical changes within the party, pointing to its dismal electoral performances and shrinking voter base.

The controversy began when Kerala Congress leader Kodikunnil Suresh called Tharoor a “guest artist and immature politician”. Radhakrishnan, who had himself criticised Tharoor over the letter, then stepped in to stop the infighting. He asked all leaders to treat the matter as closed and not air opinions freely.

“Tharoor is not a politician,” Suresh said. “For the party, he’s only a guest artist. He is immature and yet to learn to work well within the party framework. It is not right for him to take different positions thinking that he is a global citizen.” Senior leader K Muralidharan also lashed out at Tharoor, saying that the letter created much confusion and led to opponents targeting the Congress.

Many other Kerala Congress leaders also backed Tharoor.

“Tharoor’s contributions are immense and he is an inspiration for youngsters,” legislator KS Sabrinathan said. “No doubt, he is a global citizen. His contacts really helped the state during the trying time of the pandemic. He might have different opinions on issues like airport privatisation but these things will have to be sorted out through discussion.”

‘Rahul Gandhi may not take Congress to victory in 2024’

Meanwhile, one of the 23 signatories of the letter to Sonia Gandhi told NDTV that Rahul Gandhi may not be able to take the Congress to victory in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. “We are no more in a position to say that Rahul Gandhi will be able to lead the party and help us get 400 seats in 2024,” the politician said. “We must realise that in two Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019, the party hasn’t been able to get the required seats.” The leader said that from “Nagpur to Shimla” the party has 16 Lok Sabha seats, of which eight are in Punjab.

Earlier this week, Sonia Gandhi appointed several leaders to new positions in the party, in an apparent attempt to keep dissenters in the party in check. On August 24, the Congress Working Committee had unanimously decided to give Sonia Gandhi six more months in office.

The letter

The letter written by 23 Congress leaders to Sonia Gandhi says that there has been a “steady decline of the party”, as witnessed in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but no “honest introspection” to analyse the reasons for these massive defeats.

The letter added that Congress workers on the ground are demoralised because of the uncertainty over the leadership. The Congress is yet to appoint a full-time president since Rahul Gandhi resigned following the 2019 Lok Sabha election debacle.

The letter also said the Congress Working Committee was an ineffective institution and its meetings were purely episodic and reacting to contemporary events, rather than being a deliberative body for setting the agenda and for taking policy decisions.