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If Rahul contests from Amethi, it will send strong message: Tharoor

Talking to DH's Arjun Raghunath, Tharoor admitted that BJP candidate Rajeev Chandrasekhar will give a tough fight in Thiruvananthapuram, whereas there is a wave in Congress-led UDF's favour in all other 19 seats in Kerala, except for a tight fight with the left-front in a couple of seats.
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 22:13 IST
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 22:13 IST

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Congress working committee member Shashi Tharoor has said if Rahul Gandhi contests from Amethi or any seats in UP it will send a strong message. He also accuses Modi of running a parliamentary system presidentially. Talking to DH's Arjun Raghunath, Tharoor admitted that BJP candidate Rajeev Chandrasekhar will give a tough fight in Thiruvananthapuram, whereas there is a wave in Congress-led UDF's favour in all other 19 seats in Kerala, except for a tight fight with the left-front in a couple of seats.

This is the fourth time you are contesting from Thiruvananthapuram. Is Rajeev Chandrasekhar making it difficult for you?

Rajeev certainly has emerged as the main challenger. It's not surprising as the BJP came second in the last two elections. This time they have much stronger resources and are making a huge effort. Hence, I am not taking anything for granted. It requires a lot of hard work as there are just two weeks for the polls.

Is the fund crunch affecting your campaign?

No doubt that there is a vast gap in the resources available to me and him, which is visible in posters and hoardings. We are doing our best to enhance our visibility. Since I have been an MP here for 15 years, I am not a stranger. Rajeev needs to introduce himself. The lengthy campaign duration gives him time for familiarisation.

Chandrasekhar is moving legally against you over allegations of giving money to voters. How will you counter?

I didn't make any direct allegation against him. When a journalist sought my reaction to allegations that he was spending money to influence voters, I replied that I was also hearing the same. Once I receive legal notice, I will reply.

The contest in Thiruvananthapuram seems to be between two high-profile candidates rather than political ideologies. Is that so?

I have a different vision of a better society and more inclusive India than anyone who represents the BJP. BJP rides on a platform of bigotry and communalism. Their entire message rests on demonising the minorities. Hence, they are not winning any seats in Kerala as the state has 47% minorities. Modi's slogan is 'Sab ke saath, sab ka vikas'. Had he meant it and acted accordingly he might have been able to influence people. But he made that slogan and spent 10 years demonising minorities, attacking them, attacking Kerala for being the home to parties like IUML.

How do you see Left Front candidate Panniyan Raveendran?

His candidacy has not caught fire, maybe because Thiruvananthapuram often witnesses people voting differently in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, based on issues. Even six out of the seven assembly seats in my constituency went to the left in the 2021 assembly polls. I am confident of pulling back those seats in the next assembly elections.

Is the candidacy of Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad creating a wave in favour of Congress-led UDF?

Since I have been focusing more on Thiruvananthapuram so far, I could not give enough attention to other constituencies. But many journalists covering other constituencies said there is an overwhelming UDF wave. Only in a couple of places, there is a tight fight between UDF and LDF.

Do you think Rahul should contest from Amethi?

The decision is entirely up to him. But I see a lot of advantages for the party if he contests from any seats in UP. It will send a powerful message. On top of that, I welcome his decision to contest from Wayanad.

Is the lack of a leader, like Narendra Modi for NDA, a setback for the I.N.D.I.A. bloc?

I don't think projecting a leader is relevant in the parliamentary system. It is relevant only in the presidential system. Modi is running a parliamentary system presidentially. That is abnormal. In the parliamentary system, you are not voting for an individual but for a party, its policies and ideologies. Only the people of Varanasi can vote for Modi. If you vote for I.N.D.I.A you will get a good Prime Minister. It may be Rahul Gandhi of Mallikarjun Kharge or someone else.

Don't you think that Congress should have specified the stand on CAA in the manifesto?

I was in the manifesto committee, but could not attend the working committee meeting due to the campaign. CAA was in the draft. A total of 26 laws, including CAA, were listed in the draft for either repealing or amending. But for making the document more concise the list had to be dropped. Instead, it is mentioned that all anti-people laws will be repealed or amended. CAA is surely an anti-people law and we will take action as we assure the people of Kerala.

But that has given space for CPM to attack Congress?

The irony is that CPM is campaigning as if they didn't realise that this is an election for unseating BJP. They are campaigning as if the election is against the Congress. We are supposed to share the objective to get rid of the BJP at the Centre. In Thiruvananthapuram, the left is campaigning entirely against me and not mentioning BJP.

Did the Congress and left parties fall into the trap of the BJP and Sangh Parivar agenda of campaigning more on communal lines rather than development and welfare issues?

I don't think so. I brought out a 68-page booklet highlighting my development initiatives. We are campaigning on development issues and at the same time we are also running our political stance on national and political issues. CPM is making a rather embarrassing bid to gain Muslim votes. They are attacking the Congress with the hopes that they can show the Muslim voters that they are more supportive to the Muslim community than we are. This is a silly game to play. The CPM seems to be more desperate in Kerala as these are signs of panic that they are about to lose every seat in the state.

What about Modi's projections of crossing the 400 mark in Lok Sabha and double-digit seats in Kerala?

I already said the two digits Modi could expect are zero and zero. Four hundred is a pure piece of propaganda aimed at showing confidence to voters. They often did it in many state elections. They predicted higher numbers than what they actually ended up with.

Women representation in Congress is very low. Why?

Yes, only one female candidate for Congress in Kerala. It is a disappointment for many of us. But we wanted to give a lot of favour to the incumbents owing to the importance of this election. That's why even those prepared to step aside were asked to fight again as we need experienced persons. But in the assembly election, we will ensure more women candidates.

Do you think there should be a retirement age for politicians?

Retirement age is a mechanical formula. I intend this to be my last LS election. But I may do other things that politics presents as an opportunity. Will Modi, who imposed a retirement age of 75 for his ministers, impose that on him? I don't see any signs of that.

You mentioned Congress winning back in Kerala in the 2026 Assembly polls. Will you be there in the fray?

I will be only happy to take important roles in the Kerala assembly elections as Kerala deserves a better government than the present CPM government. The party will then decide what role I should play. But it is completely premature to talk about it now.

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Published 14 April 2024, 22:13 IST

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