Hey, Is Anyone Listening - I Support Tharoor!
I have decided, if and when the Congress party consults me, to back Shashi Tharoor as President. Unfortunately that call has taken so long to come that the elections for the Congress President are around the corner, and poor Tharoor has to battle for the top post without help from me. If only he had known (and here I ignore the uncharitable friends who insist that words from me would be more like the unnoticeable nail in his political coffin).
I have decided to back Tharoor for three reasons. One, my support or otherwise doesn't matter as I have no access to the top leadership of the party and have to recognise my nobody-ness. Two, and this is important, I need to assuage the remnants of the guilt that followed me after I strongly opposed his candidature for the UN Secretary General. An age ago, when the media sort of mattered. And what we wrote was heard. And we carried articles and wrote of how Tharoor was ill suited for the job, that Manmohan Singh (then PM) and Sonia Gandhi should look inwards for talent and not settle for a Kofi Anan aide (Tharoor was very close to the former UN Secretary General) who had spent little time on and in India.
Anyways, I must say that Tharoor took the criticism personally, but well. He wrote me a long missive wondering why I had decided to take this position and listing his many achievements of the time. This demonstrated his determination and the focus that one sees till today. To cut a long story short he lost, and then eventually came back to India and the rest is history.
So today he is a good choice for party President. He clearly has the support of the Family as has Kharge. And perhaps as Rahul Gandhi says it is a real contest, though now Ashok Gehlot, chief minister of Rajasthan, seems to have queered the pitch by throwing his not unsubstantial weight behind Kharge. This has led Tharoor to file a complaint with the Congress poll body, though of course little will come of it. And this makes for my third reason, I need to counter Gehlot's backing for Kharge by rooting in loud decibels and sufficient body weight, for Tharoor. That is only fair.
Tharoor appears to be the underdog, but that he has more mass support than Kharge is perhaps a given. The young generations — and must say many of the older ones too– swoon over the English speaking, light eyed, politician . And in these days given the general absence of political acumen, eye candy can be pretty refreshing. So why not!
He has, of course, grown into the party. He has been disciplined, articulate, and brings an air of independence to the job of pleasing all. He has his own mass base, and has been winning elections rather steadily from Kerala. He is charming and not confrontationist; articulate without being a gas bag; intelligent with a sense of humour and an ability to laugh at himself; and if we are looking for a nice Congress party president he fits the bill better than most, if not all.
The last one to understand the dynamics of the Congress party was Ahmed Patel, and since then no one has replaced him. The Congress party needs a solid manager, a man who knows it through and through; and can cope with the oversized ego's, manage the states, and keep the leaders satisfied and largely happy. Tharoor has still to demonstrate his talents here, seems to be happier away from the Congress nitty gritty rather than be in it; and probably does not know the names of the party state chiefs in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Rahul Gandhi is emerging as a popular leader. But he needs a Man Friday not to manage publicity that Jairam Ramesh is doing so well now, but a senior leader, a party president who spends his days and nights building the organisation from the grassroots up. Kharge is too old and tired to deliver; Tharoor has the enthusiasm but perhaps little else by way of stitching together the party fabric from the districts up.
There is not a single leader in the Congress today who can deliver on this front. To be the second person behind the popular leader with a strong sense of politics; of intrinsic knowledge of the party; a grasp of political equations across the country; and an ability to weave these together into strategy. Ashok Gehlot is one of the few seasoned politicians left with a good idea of the northern states; but he is so busy fighting his political battles that he would rather remain local than national.
So it is between Kharge and Tharoor. Ho- hum! Sorry, that came from nowhere - I support Tharoor! Is anyone listening?!