Top Congress leaders in Kerala are upset that Shashi Tharoor's north Kerala events are being portrayed as a "political tour" and have raised concerns over the possibility of a new "Tharoor faction".
Shashi Tharoor’s frenetic tour in Kerala has become hugely controversial for the Congress, with a section seething over the MP’s political outreach. Congress leaders in Kerala are worried about the possible rise of a “Tharoor faction”, sources say.
“I do not fear anyone and there is no need for anyone to be afraid of me,” the Congress MP said on his party men. He was also asked why he was not campaigning for the elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. “Football teaches us that every sport should he played with sportsmanship spirit. Shouldn’t we see politics also in a sporting spirit? The umpire is not out with a red card yet. Himachal and Gujarat elections didn’t have my name as star campaigners. We can go only when our names are there,” he said.
The Congress has not officially objected to Mr Tharoor’s solo act, but one leader put out a warning of sorts, without naming him. “The Congress in Kerala can’t afford any more parallel activities…After suffering two drubbings in the assembly polls, the party is on a comeback mode in the state. Everybody’s working as a team now. At this time, no one will be allowed to do any parallel activities,” said VD Satheesan, a senior Congress leader in Kerala.
The resentment of a section of the Congress was exposed when a youth Congress event for Mr Tharoor was called off in Kozhikode; he was eventually hosted by a pro-Congress outfit after the intervention of Kozhikode Congress MP Raghavan and other youth congress leaders. Now, in damage control, the Youth Congress may go ahead with a scheduled event in Kannur on Wednesday, according to sources. If not, then this event, too, may be taken over by a pro-Congress group.
Tharoor’s supporters – unofficially dubbed the “Tharoor faction” in the state Congress – hit out at what they called an “unannounced ban” on the seminar on “Sangh Parivar and Challenges to Secularism” organised by the Youth Congress on Sunday.
In a series of tweets, Tharoor shared images of what he claimed was overwhelming participation by the Youth Congress in Kozhikode, but he also appeared to shade his party. “Wonderful welcome by @iyc activists in Kozhikode after some came under pressure not to provide me a platform,” the Congress leader tweeted.
This is Tharoor’s first big political tour miles away from his constituency Thiruvananthapuram in the southernmost part of Kerala. During his visit to north Kerala – also known as the Malabar region – the Congress MP met with his party’s largest ally in Kerala, the Muslim League.
“Some are saying it is divisive tactics or groupism. We do not intend to create any group nor are we interested in it. Congress is already full of ‘A’ and ‘I’ groups and there is no need to add any more alphabets like ‘O’ and ‘V’. If there has to be an alphabet, it should be ‘U’ for a united Congress which is what we all need. I fail to see the need to make a big deal out of two UDF (opposition coalition in Kerala) MPs meeting an ally’s leaders,” Tharoor said.
The tour comes at a crucial time and context for Shashi Tharoor after his run for Congress president last month. He did not win, predictably, pitted against the Gandhis-approved Mallikarjun Kharge. He even complained about being cold-shouldered by Congress delegates in many states, but a bulk of the votes for him in the party president polls came from Kerala.
The Muslim League is apparently supportive of a greater role for Tharoor in Kerala politics, though in public they have been cautious about their ally, often restricting their comments to saying, “it is the Congress’s internal matter”. The Congress and the Muslim League are already trying to mend a rift over statements by Congress’s Kerala chief K Sudhakaran, slammed as pro-RSS.
On Wednesday, Tharoor will be in Kannur, the home turf of Mr Sudhakaran, who, though not happy about the tour, has attempted to rein in leaders making public remarks or airing their dissent. Sudhakaran also termed as baseless the reports that Tharoor was barred from attending public events. “Tharoor has also denied it”, he said.