Among the few Congress veterans to throw their weight behind Shashi Tharoor in the contest for party president, former J&K PCC chief Saifuddin Soz says he thinks Shashi Tharoor will do “better” in the post.
While stressing that he has respect for Tharoor’s rival Mallikarjun Kharge, who is seen to have the Gandhi family’s blessing, Soz said: “He (Tharoor) is very well-read. He is energetic and dynamic and he has a wider world view and wider appeal as well.”
A two-time Union minister, Soz was one of the first Congress leaders to rally behind Tharoor, and is among those backing him.
However, the former Congress chief of J&K does not support the hype about the election being “historic”. “This is not the first time that a non-Gandhi would be at the helm. We have examples before us. We had P V Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri earlier,” he said.
It was to Rahul’s credit that an election was being held for the post though, Soz said. “It is the success of Rahul Gandhi and his style of politics. It was he who wanted a non-Gandhi to lead the party.”
Soz said the BJP looked rattled by Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, during which he will cover the length of the country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. “Rahul is continuously pulling crowds. His yatra is a success and it has rejuvenated the Congress,” he said.
Asked about the resignation of senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad from the Congress, to float a new party, Soz refused to comment beyond the fact that there won’t be much of an impact in Kashmir. “Here, the larger space is for the National Conference and PDP. We too have some pockets of influence, but for us, the larger space is in Jammu,” he said.
The biggest issue for the Congress in J&K was to remain wedded to the party’s ideology and Constitution, Soz said, in a hint at steps by the Centre seen as directed at increasing polarisation in the Union Territory.
Asked about accusations against Congress leaders of peddling soft Hindutva, Soz said such examples did not define the party. “The Congress is a thoroughly secular party. Secularism is at the core of its agenda. That said, there may be certain leaders with RSS ideology,” he said. “Even (Jawaharlal) Nehru said, ‘Don’t think the Congress is devoid of RSS ideology, as harmful as it may be’.”