Gandhi family blessing me and Kharge: Shashi Tharoor 

Shashi Tharoor. Photo: PTI

Mumbai: Congress presidential poll candidate Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the Gandhi family was blessing him and his opponent, Mallikarjun Kharge, and had no bias towards either of them.

Speaking to the media after meeting party functionaries at Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee office here, the former diplomat also said his aim was to make Congress stronger before the 2024 polls.

"The Gandhi family is blessing me and Kharge ji. Because we are contesting for making the party stronger," he said.

Tharoor dismissed speculation that the ongoing electoral battle with Kharge was one between an official candidate (Kharge) and an unofficial one (himself) as claimed by certain leaders.

"My interactions with the Gandhi family have convinced me that there is no bias from them towards either me or Kharge," he said.

The BJP should start preparing for being a part of the opposition as they will have to sit there after the 2024 elections, Tharoor said.

"Our party needs change and I feel I am the one who will be the catalyst of change," Tharoor said.

He said the Congress has run the country nicely and has experienced people in the party.

"We need to win the trust of voters," he added, during the delegate outreach event at the Congress state headquarters in Mumbai.

Congress state unit chief Nana Patole was not present.

"I had a word with Patole ji and he informed me about his prior commitment. I am not complaining at all," Tharoor said, when asked about Patole's absence.

Members of the All India Professional Congress greeted Tharoor at Tilak Bhavan. Former Lok Sabha MP Priya Dutt and former Rajya Sabha MP Bhalchandra Mungekar were also present.

Tharoor visited Chaityabhoomi, the cremation place of B R Ambedkar, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial at Shivaji Park, and the Siddhivinayak temple before reaching Tilak Bhawan, the state Congress headquarters.

Tharoor also issued a video appeal on Twitter later in the day for the over 9,000 Pradesh Congress delegates who will be voting in the organisational poll.

"We face a big challenge in the Indian National Congress. The challenge of reviving our party and making it fit for purpose to fight the formidable BJP in the elections of 2024," he said in his video appeal.

"The challenge is rendered all the more significant by the fact that our party is giving the nation an example of inner party democracy that no other party has been able to," Tharoor said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former party president Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have stressed that they welcome the election as a means of making the Congress strong and they believe that this will attract the public to the party, Tharoor said, adding that it is in that spirit that he is fighting.

He said he has offered a number of ideas to strengthen the party in his manifesto, including decentralisation of authority, empowering the workers so that they have access to all levels of decision-making, to broaden participation in the party and to empower all the workers.

The idea is to restore institutions that were provided in the party constitution but have fallen into disuse and to win back voters that the party lost in the 2014 and 2019 polls.

He urged the delegates to vote for him on October 17, saying "if not now, when are we going to do it". PTI

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