New Delhi: “Harne-waley ko Baazigar kaheten haen!” As a former UN diplomat, Shashi Tharoor played a smart game. That’s diplomatic billiards. He hit one ball, but another ball could make it to the destination. He might have lost by a huge margin, but Congressmen and women got a message that he means business and despite being handicapped by dynastic shenanigans, he has made it to the top slot.
About 10-11 per cent vote share that Tharoor bagged shows at least 1000 Congressmen and women belonging to the pro-change club in a party they perhaps feel suffocated and caged. This was a desperate lot, to an extent, who wants to fight the Dynasty.
Tharoor polled 1072 votes more than a so-called mass leader Sharad Pawar got in 1997 when the Congress party had voted overwhelmingly for Sitaram Kesri. It is a different story the ‘dynasty’ led by Sonia Gandhi and supported by the likes of Ghulam Nabi Azad staged a coup and ousted Kesri within months.
In any other party, and any other day — the election results of Congress internal polls could have been different! It is understood, Tharoor bagged substantial votes from states such as Nagaland — where the party ruled supreme for decades but is now a marginalised force.
Importantly, the G-23 gang did not have enough willpower and courage to back Tharoor — that’s also a political message.
Importantly again, Nagaland Congress delegates were Christians — all –, and the Sonia Gandhi factor did not come their way supposedly in making up the decision to back the stylish English-speaking Tharoor.
Former Nagaland Chief Minister K L Chishi says – “I also commend Dr Shashi Tharoor for being a worthy candidate to strengthen the inner party democracy of Indian National Congress”. Words are well measured and very powerful.
For his part, Tharoor’s Twitter missive was also politically significant. “It was a privilege to have received the support of over a thousand colleagues, and to carry the hopes and aspirations of so many well-wishers of Congress across India,” the former Minister tweeted. There are more political signals.
Past stalwarts like Sharad Pawar had polled 882 votes and Rajesh Pilot only 354 in 1997 when Sitaram Kesri had won the presidency by polling 6224 votes.
Tharoor has received approval from more Congressmen and women than Maratha strongman and a ‘permanent’ PM-aspirant from the western state that also houses BCCI headquarters and the country’s industry and economic activities.
At the end of the day, it is nobody’s case to suggest that either Tharoor or Kharge can change the fate of Congress — out of power in Delhi since 2014 and also has lost several key states. Worse, it is a zero-MLA strong/weak party in West Bengal, Delhi and Nagaland. In Tripura also, it could not open an account in 2018 but in 2021, a BJP-defector, Sudip Roy Barman, won a by-election.
Observers readily say, Tharoor’s contest was commendable as he was supposed to take on the elite and coterie sections of the old system.
The same old High Command culture and diktats of the virtuous crown prince (‘I can do no wrong’ theory) are out of touch with the masses.
The Congress does not have any social base today. Kharge’s Dalit identity too may not leave any impressive impact.
And worse for thousands of Hindu voters — the Congress is the new Muslim League and, at best a pro-Christianoutfit which often gets excited by machinations and narratives of the Urban Naxals.
If Kharge is smart and his high command allows him to be slightly independent, Tharoor should be included in the Congress Working Committee.
Tharoor could be given some ‘organisational responsibilities’ in a few southern states and in the northeast. Who knows, Tharoor will be able to make a difference in the states such as Kerala and the northeastern states.
Between the northeast and Kerala, there are 45 seats, and that includes Rahul Gandhi’s parliamentary constituency Wayanad too.
In Assam, in 2019, the BJP could win nine seats out of 14. Among other states, BJP won both seats in Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. In 2024, it is likely to win both seats in Manipur – where the saffron party returned to power earlier this year as a stronger outfit than it was in 2017.
In Sikkim, Nagaland and Mizoram regional partners have won the seat. In Meghalaya, Congress had won one, and the Tura seat went to Agatha Sangma of NPP.
Importantly, in 2021, the BJP could retain the state government in Assam. The Congress’s disappointment did not end with electoral defeat wherein they had a fair chance of winning.
What is politically more significant is that the Congress is now a demoralised outfit in Assam – where it had a very strong base, and several Congressmen and women have already jumped ship and embraced BJP’s right-wing politics.
Who knows what more is stored in? If Ghulam Nabi Azad can feel uncomfortable, and quit Congress, anyone else can.