New Delhi: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday stoked a fresh debate over leadership in the Congress, saying the delay in choosing a new president was giving an impression of "drift and indecision" which cannot be allowed to drag on.
Asked about the chances of a non-Gandhi becoming the Congress president, he said, "Personally, I have not said that there should be a non-Gandhi. In fact, when I was asked some days ago, I had said that Priyanka Gandhi has the charisma, she has the ability and many party workers admire her. I hope that she would throw her hat in the ring. Even she would gain from an electoral process within the party."
"But as we know, it is Rahul Gandhi himself who had said that no member of his family should lead. Now once that it closed, it is the family themselves who can decide if they want to change that position. If they change, it would be welcomed in the party. But if they don't change, the party can't wait. It has to act. It is the absence of determination that it frustrating many people in the party," he stressed.
Backing Tharoor, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said Priyanka Gandhi will be a "perfect choice" for the post of party president.
"Priyanka will be a perfect choice to take over the party reins but it all depends on the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which alone is authorised to make a decision in the matter," Singh added.
Responding to Tharoor's concerns, Congress general secretary K C Venugopal said the party is not orphaned.
"Shashi Tharoor has expressed the sentiments of a common Congressman. It is, however, not an orphaned scenario. The Congress president has stepped down. When he (Rahul) did that, he offered to run the office until a replacement was found...He has been involved in the day-to-day activities of the party," Venugopal told media in Kerala's Alappuzha.
In his interview to ANI, Tharoor said, "Sadly, it more than two months since Rahul Gandhi announced his resignation first. Then as we know that it was initially not accepted but then he made it very clear that they had no choice and he was walking out. I want my party to stay strong and for us to be strong we need leadership. I think the leader will have to be initially an interim president."
The Thiruvananthapuram MP said, "What we are seeing is a level of disarray which is not worthy of a grand national party that we are. It will end the moment a quick, efficient decision is taken and then I believe a democratic process should take place that will open up the election to other candidates."
Demanding that someone should be given authority to take decisions, Tharoor said, "First thing is to appoint an interim president or authorise someone to take decisions. So if somebody like Goa opposition leader leaves with most of the party, someone should be there to stop, persuade, argue or to do something..."
He lauded Congress leader D K Shivkumar for putting up a brave fight in Karnataka.
"But there was no visible national leader to back him. This is not good for a party like us. Who are they going to try and take next? Maybe they will come to Madhya Pradesh. Are we going to sit quietly and indifferently while this goes on? No. We must have a leader and the leader must work."
"At the same time, it's important to open up the process because right now, a lot of people are losing faith in us because of what has happened. If they would open up the process, name interim president, dissolve the working committee, call for elections within a reasonable period of time, in which candidates may come forward, and then ask AICC which is 1,000 people or PCC of roughly 10,000 people to actually have an election," he added.
Tharoor said that Congress is an opposition party which this democracy needs because it represents "very important principles."
"I believe in democracy, we should not be scared of elections. We want a leader to emerge who will galvanise the workers and inspire the voters. Too many voters have turned away in recent years and that is not good. We are the one opposition party that this democracy needs. Not only because we have a national footprint but also because we represent very important principles in Indian democracy. When you speak of the inclusive idea of India, it is not just a slogan, it is a different way of looking at India from those who would advocate a Hindu Rashtra," he felt.
"Many people close to power are saying that this is a country of the Hindus, for the Hindus. In our democracy, we must offer a robust defence of the idea of an inclusive India. That is something the Congress party is very-very well placed...it has been doing it for 70 years. After all, who was expressing this idea in the national movement? It was the Congress party. This is why I think India and Indian democracy need the Congress party. So the Congress party has to wake up and do its duty to India and Indian democracy," said Tharoor.
Talking about the role of Rahul Gandhi in the party, he said, "Congress party's DNA is inextricably tied with the DNA of Nehru-Gandhi family. So, whatever role he takes or doesn't take, even if he takes no position...his views, his influence in many ways is a sort of conscience keeper."
Tharoor said that if the Gandhi family says that they don't want to continue the leadership then the party has to respect it.
Criticising the ruling BJP, the Congress leader said, "As long as the ruling element continues to condone or encourage bigoted behaviour, it becomes indispensable that there is a voice which says there is another way. That this is not India that Mahatma Gandhi fought to free."
"That is the ideology Rahul Gandhi is talking about," he added....