Locked in a high-stakes battle with Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor for the Congress presidency, veteran Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge will begin his multi-state campaign tour from Gujarat on Friday. The Tharoor camp, meanwhile, has approached the party’s central election authority with multiple complaints.
Sources close to Kharge said the 80-year-old will visit at least 10 state capitals over the next five days to interact with PCC delegates — the voters in the election – and seek their support. Tharoor has already visited Maharashtra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu besides his home state of Kerala as part of his campaign tour.
Kharge will begin in Ahmedabad on Friday morning, where he will first visit the Sabarmati Ashram and then meet the PCC delegates at the party headquarters. He will then head to Mumbai. On Saturday, he will be in Hyderabad and Vijayawada, covering Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. On Sunday, he will campaign in Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi. He will then travel to West Bengal and Assam on Monday, and to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, sources said the Tharoor camp has approached Madhusudan Mistry, the head of the election authority, with multiple complaints. Sources said two leaders who are working closely with the Tharoor campaign have drawn Mistry’s attention to some state Congress presidents violating guidelines by openly endorsing Kharge’s candidature, alleged “intimidation” faced by Tharoor’s proposers, and discrepancies in the list of PCC delegates who form the electoral college.
K Sudhakaran, the president of the party’s Kerala unit, and his Telangana counterpart, A Revanth Reddy, had given statements which were seen as an endorsement of Kharge’s candidature. Earlier this week, Reddy called Kharge “Telangana Bidda” (son of Telangana) and referred to the sacrifices made by his family while fighting against the Nizam’s rule. His comments were seen as an endorsement of Kharge.
Sudhakaran too had spoken highly of Kharge, referring to his long stint in parliamentary politics and organisational experience, saying this made him the most capable person to lead the Congress. “He is a leader who can engage with all generations of party workers. He has never compromised with the RSS and Sangh Parivar. Such a leader can identify the strengths and weaknesses of the party,” he had said.
Sources said the Tharoor camp told Mistry that such statements are in violation of the guidelines issued by the election authority.
In detailed guidelines issued earlier this week, the party’s central election authority had said the “AICC general secretaries/ in charges, secretaries/ joint secretaries, PCC presidents, CLP leaders, heads of frontal organisations, chiefs of departments/ cells and all official spokespersons shall not campaign for or against contesting candidates. If they wish to support any candidate they must first resign from their organisational post, after that they can participate in the campaign process.”
The Tharoor camp also claimed that some of the proposers – party leaders who signed on Tharoor’s nomination papers – were facing “pressure” and “intimidation” from senior state leaders to change their positions. Sources said the letter to Mistry, however, has not named any leader.
The Tharoor camp is also battling to reach out to the 9,100-plus PCC delegates. Sources alleged that there were discrepancies between the first list given to Tharoor on the day of nomination and the second list with telephone numbers which was provided on Wednesday. Sources said the list was incomplete, with the names of delegates of some of the states missing. “We have received 8,739 names but some states are missing,” said a source.