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Congress Presidential Polls: Has Mallikarjun Kharge Already Swept The Turf?

Congress needs major reforms and decentralisation of party functions. Mallikarjun Kharge has never overtly pushed for reforms, but Shashi Tharoor has been vocal about reforms. If the contest between the two is fixed, one can anticipate the direction the party may take after the results.

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Shashi Tharoor and Mallikarjun Kharge are the two candidates for the post of Congress party chief
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In a bid to choose its party president, Congress will go for the much-awaited polls on Monday. In the fray are the party’s favourite Mallikarjun Kharge —who garners support from the Gandhis and myriad party stalwarts, including several members of the infamous G-23— and Shashi Tharoor, the candidate who is vowing to radically change the status quo of the party organisation as well as elevating the status of the young cadres in the All India Congress Committee (AICC).   

Although the Congress, by holding the presidential polls, is asserting its internal democracy and is silencing its critics, some political observers say that Kharge may have already swept the polls.  

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Tharoor kicked off his campaign with buoyancy and claimed that the Gandhis only had “good words” for him. He often claimed the support of many leaders who urged him to contest. He even said that many electors have been instructed by “their leaders” to support Kharge, but they may eventually vote for him in a secret ballot.  

“Many such electors may eventually choose to cast their vote in my favour. [Many] who are expecting a lopsided victory for the establishment in this election…are in for a surprise when the votes are counted on October 19,” Tharoor was quoted by a news agency. 

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However, on October 13, while addressing a press conference at the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) office, Tharoor complained that some leaders had “openly come out in support” of Kharge and even held meetings “in his favour”. He further said that several PCC chiefs, who did not meet him during his visits to their respective states, were seen welcoming Kharge jovially. Tharoor, an MP from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, said these incidents “disturbed the level-playing field”. 

While submitting his nomination last month, Tharoor and his team had received a list of the delegates who would cast their vote. Many of these delegates’ names were not accompanied by addresses or phone numbers. Later, his team turned to the Central Election Committee (CEC) for help. 

Tharoor later claimed the new list that his team received did not have at least 500 names that the earlier list had, but had some 600 additional names.  One can easily guess the reason behind Tharoor’s changing tone — from being very confident to expressing wariness.  

A young political worker, the daughter of a deceased Congress leader, says she will vote for Kharge because it augurs well for the party. 

“The Congress will be fragmented and decimated without the Gandhis at the helm,” said this young political worker, requesting anonymity.   

However, the Congress needs to undergo major reforms and decentralise its functions. 

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While Kharge has never overtly pushed for reforms, Tharoor has been vocal about changes in the structure. If the contest between the two is fixed, one can anticipate the direction the party may take after the results. 

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