Though the “unofficial” candidate Shashi Tharoor managed to get few supporters in the Congress president poll, the real battle now appears to be between K.C.Venugopal and Tharoor, as the official candidate — 80-year-old Mallikarjun Kharge — is a clear choice of Venugopal and another Keralite A.K.Antony.
AICC general secretary (organisation) Venugopal and his senior party colleague Antony are known to be the closest aides of the Gandhi family in general and Rahul Gandhi in particular.
While Tharoor had thrown his candidature much before the official notification of the election, the Venugopal camp was caught unawares and things became tough, when Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Ghelot withdrew at the last minute.
Antony was summoned from the state capital and it was after he reached Delhi, Kharge’s name surfaced and then the Congress brains decided to market his Scheduled caste status against the high profile and dashing Tharoor.
With Kharge filing his nomination papers signed by all the bigwigs in the party including those who were part of the G-23, who first raised a banter against the Gandhi family, the writing was very clear that Tharoor has turned out to be a persona non-grata to those who matter in the grand old party.
Soon came a huge setback for Tharoor, when all the giants in the party, including Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala, V.D.Satheesan came out strongly against Tharoor and the only person who stood by Tharoor was state Congress president K.Sudhakaran, but that was short-lived, as after a few days, he too appeared to have jumped the fence.
A media critic closely watching the development in the Congress presidential poll said it’s going to be more crucial for Venugopal than Tharoor.
“We all know that Venugopal got this coveted post only because of Rahul Gandhi as many who owe their allegiance does not want Tharoor to occupy vantage positions as they know he will go by merit only and those close aides will be shown the door. All along, the Congress has been one where the final word is the Gandhi family and if Tharoor wins, there will be a total makeover and the first person who will be booted out would be none other than Venugopal, who in Kerala has never been considered anywhere near to be that of a leader. So Venugopal will ensure that when votes are counted, Tharoor’s tally is kept to the barest minimum as every vote Tharoor gets, the position of Venugopal will be affected,” said the critic.
With Saturday being the last day for withdrawal of nominations and neither Kharge or Tharoor going to do it, the battle between Tharoor and Venugopal is all set to intensify as the campaign has hit top gear and one thing is certain, the victor will be surely a ‘Keralite’ and the next president would be a South Indian.