Fifty percent of the seats in the grand old party would be given to those under 50, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge stressed on Saturday amid campaigning for the October 17 presidential election. “In Udaipur, this declaration was made – about 50 per cent seats for people below 50 years of age. That’s when we decided. And I would (if elected). When everyone wants it, it will be done,” the 80-year-old leader referring to the Chintan Shivir held earlier this year told reporters during a press interaction in Telangana.
“Those who switched parties did so because of the fear of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate and not because of positions,” he said further, taking a dig at the BJP. Kharge faces Shashi Tharoor in a week’s election to the party’s top post. On Saturday, he again dismissed reports of differences, even as the undercurrents of Tharoor’s call for change were felt. “That is the business of our house. We all have to work together. One person cannot work alone. It must be “we” not “I”. Decisions would be taken collectively,” he stressed in an apparent reference to comments by Tharoor, who has promised sweeping changes if elected.
9,300 voters would participate in the 130-year-old party’s elections, Kharge said. “I go to every state to present my opinion to the voters. I went to Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat among others. All the senior leaders – who urged me to contest the elections – told me that at a time when Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka do not want to fight it in the elections, we should keep the party strong. After their recall, I decided to contest the polls,” he said.
In the party’s century-plus history, the Congress MP pointed out, there have been four elections – “One for Subhash Chandra Bose, one for Purushottam Das Tandon-Kriplani, another for Sitaram Kesri and the fourth for Sonia Gandhi ji,” he said. “In this fifth poll I am fighting and I want to support party principles.”
“The (Narendra) Modi- (Amit) Shah duo keep asking us what the party has done in 70 years. We have built public institutions, we have worked for the development of the country – and they are determined to destroy it. Only 1 percent of the people have 22 percent of the country’s wealth ,” he stressed, attacking the central government. “We need a party to fight this,” said the former union minister.
The next Congress chief will have big challenges ahead, including preparing for the upcoming state polls and the 2024 national elections. Rahul Gandhi who led the Bharat Jodo Yatra on Saturday, says his family will influence the decision of Sonia Gandhi’s successor. “Both people standing have position and perspective. They are people of character and understanding,” Gandhi said. “I don’t think either of them will be a remote (party boss) and frankly the tone is insulting to both of them.”