Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor

New Delhi: Asserting that "lack of clarity" over leadership following Rahul Gandhi's resignation is hurting the Congress, senior leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the way forward for the party could be opening up all key posts, including the CWC membership, to fresh elections which would help legitimise the incoming set of leaders.

He also backed Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's assessment that a young leader would be more suitable to lead the Congress at this juncture. Tharoor said he hopes that party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will throw her hat in the ring when the call for elections for the party chief's post is made, but added it was up to the Gandhi family to decide on whether she will contest for the post. In an interview to PTI, Tharoor expressed disappointment with the prevailing situation in the party and asserted that there is no clear answer to the current "predicament that we in the Congress are facing".

"It is certainly quite true that the lack of clarity at the top of the party is likely to be hurting the Congress workers and sympathisers, many of whom miss the fact of having a party leader to look to for key decisions, authority and even inspiration and energy, to rally together and move forward," the Thiruvananthapuram MP said. Tharoor said he hoped that the Congress Working Committee (CWC) is taking the current situation "very seriously" and is doing its best to find a solution without further delay.

"One way forward could be for the CWC to name an interim working president for the party and then ideally dissolve itself, following which the main leadership positions within the party, including the CWC itself, should be opened up to fresh elections," the former Union minister said. "By allowing members of the party, drawn from the AICC and PCC delegates, to determine who will lead the party from these key positions, it would help legitimise the incoming set of leaders and give them a credible mandate to lead the party," he said.

Tharoor also suggested that the Congress can go for a high-octane British Conservative Party-style leadership race for presidency that could increase the national interest in the party and galvanise more voters towards it once again. Agreeing with Amarinder Singh's statement earlier this month that a young leader would be more suitable to lead, Tharoor said that given the current state of the party and the national picture, whoever assumes the mantle of president will need to achieve the twin goals of energising the workers and inspiring the voters in favour of the Congress.

"If the new president is purely an organisational person, while he or she may be able to galvanise the workers and strengthen the foundations of the party, they may be unable to bring in the support of more voters," he said. If the president is a charismatic figure but has poor organisational skills, while he or she may be personally appealing to the national electorate, they are unlikely to find a fully supportive party machinery to help translate their charisma and natural appeal into electoral results, Tharoor argued.

"In these circumstances, one would definitely like to believe that a younger leader, who has not been jaded by playing these roles for too long, would be in a better position to do both," he asserted. Asked if he thinks Priyanka Gandhi was best suited to lead the party, Tharoor said he hopes she will contest for party presidency. She has a "natural charisma" which has often prompted many to make comparisons with her grandmother and former party president, the late Indira Gandhi, which could certainly galvanise and rally party workers and voters alike, he said.

Priyanka Gandhi also comes with able organisational experience having been an influential figure at the core of the party for a while now and on the ground in Uttar Pradesh during the last elections, he said. "But at the same time...Rahul Gandhi's statement that no member from the Gandhi family should replace him, seems to rule this option out. It is really for the Gandhi family to decide where they collectively stand on this issue," he said.

Either way, an election process would be a healthy way to go about it and legitimise the mandate being offered to the incoming president, Tharoor said. On whether he would be interested in taking up the party presidency and contest for it, the 63-year-old leader said: "I'll be honest and point out that I don't think this is even a remotely possible scenario to speculate on." He said that from the organisational perspective he was relatively newer figure within the Congress, having been with the party for the little over a decade.

There are many others who have been with the party for much longer, he said. "I have also never held a senior organisational role like that of a General Secretary and the organisation that I do head within the party, the All India Professionals' Congress, while catering to an important and influential section of society, is relatively smaller just in terms of numbers," he said.

"At the same time, as a party member, I am proud of my role articulating the party's values, principles and policies outside and inside Parliament, and I remain invested in the process of revival and resurgence that party will have to embark on. I will always do whatever the party requires from me to support and aid this endeavour," he said. Rahul Gandhi announced his resignation as Congress president on May 25. However, the CWC has not accepted the resignation yet.

By Asim Kamal/PTI

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