Want Congress to be party of young India: Shashi Tharoor

6 October 2022

CHENNAI: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, in the race for the top position in the party, on Thursday said he wanted to change Congress into the party of young India and that support for his presidential candidature is swelling by the day.

The Thiruvananthapuram MP, on a brief campaign in Chennai, said how his party viewed Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra and the presidential poll, mattered most and not what others outside felt.

"It's what the Congress party looks at the Bharat Jodo Yatra and its presidency that matters and not the opposition criticism... It is a challenging election for the delegates because there's only one physical location to hold the election, that's PCC headquarters. I am still confident that we will see a good turnout," he said.

Speaking to reporters after paying floral tributes to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Kamaraj here, Tharoor said he was getting enormous amount of feedback from ordinary party workers, especially the youngsters.

He said it was very gratifying for him that the youth who are the future and also the majority in our country, back him in the polls. Those aged 35 years and below account for 65 per cent of our population. "It is their country, this is a young India," he said.

"I want Congress to be the party of young India. I want to represent the aspirations, dreams and hopes of young India, just as Rajiv Gandhi attempted to do 40 years ago and succeeded in his initiation of telecom and IT revolution. We too have to now move forward to seize the opportunity available to young India. I am very happy to have the support of the young people," he said.

He also emphasised that seniors in the party too have pledged their support to him. Tharoor pointed out that he got a call from a 91-year-old delegate in his home state of Kerala today who said the nonagenarian was not young but saw the future in Tharoor.

"There are people like him (veteran delegate) too. I am not turning away any support, we need men and women, young and old, senior leaders and ordinary workers, we need everyone to join us in this great adventure of making a rejuvenated Congress to lead young India," he said.

Tharoor began his campaign in Nagpur, has moved south and would be going to the north again to canvass support in Mumbai, Bhopal, Lucknow, Patna, Kolkata and as many places as he could reach, despite the paucity of time.

The Congress presidential polls are scheduled to be held on October 17.

"I am talking to people in the north over phone and messaging. Their messages are extremely encouraging. I think what we are seeing is a groundswell of support across the north for a campaign that talks about change in a very constructive spirit," he said when asked about the support for his candidature in the party.

On the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Congress leader said it was a wonderful initiative. Tharoor said he was a huge admirer of the effort that's being undertaken by party leader Rahul Gandhi and hundreds of young people who are marching with him from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and many joining the yatra in their respective home states.

"I myself marched for three days in Kerala and I can tell you the public enthusiasm is incredible. There were lakhs of people to cheer and participate from the morning. This is an extraordinary feat that Rahul Gandhi has worked upon and I am very glad. Though the presidential election will be over in 20 days, the Bharat Jodo Yatra will go on for 150 days with a message that we must unite India and fight against the injustices inflicted upon the nation by the present (BJP) government," he said.

Responding to a question on Tharoor taking on party veteran Mallikarjun Kharge in the party's presidential election, he said, "Currently, we find ourselves in a situation where all decisions are taken in Delhi and people at the bottom level are told this is what you have to do."

"I want to be the voice of those clamouring for more respect in the party. Ordinary workers want more access to the decision makers in the party... If we empower our workers, they will feel a greater sense of ownership in the party and that's want I want to see happening," he said.

"Whoever wins the elections -- whether Kharge or I -- the real victory is for the Congress party," Tharoor said and reiterated that the Gandhi family is an indispensable asset to the party.

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