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"Open to public debate": Shashi Tharoor ahead of leadership poll

Open to public debate: Shashi Tharoor ahead of leadership poll

New Delhi: After Mallikarjun Kharge has thrown his hat into the ring for the Congress chief's post, the rival candidate Shashi Tharoor suggests a debate, after the fashion of British Conservative party leadership poll, to draw people's interest in the party.

He also said the Nehru-Gandhi family has held and will always hold a special place in the hearts of Congress party members.

In an interview with PTI, Shashi Tharoor said the answer to the Congress' current challenges lies in a combination of effective leadership and organisational reforms.

Kharge and Tharoor were left in the fray in the Congress presidential poll after former Jharkhand minister K N Tripathi's nomination was rejected on Saturday.

Talking about what he brings to the table, Tharoor said, "I have a proven and credible track record in leading at the highest levels of organisations, whether it has been at the UN, where, as the under-secretary general in-charge of the body's public information department, I managed the communications of the UN's largest department comprising of over 800 staff in 77 offices worldwide, rationalised its structure, trimmed its budget and sharpened its efforts - all of which prompted many to urge me to contest to lead the UN Organisation itself.

"Or, more recently for the Congress party, as founder-chairman of the All-India Professionals' Congress, which I had to create from scratch and which in just five years since 2017 has over 10, 000 fellows from across 20 states in the country." In terms of organisational reforms, the former Union minister said, he has outlined a set of priorities which he believes can help strengthen the Congress and take on the machinery of the BJP.

"Since our current situation is widely deplored, it may be an advantage not to be burdened by the baggage of having spent too much time in the present party organisation and be able to approach it from a fresh perspective," the 66-year-old leader said.

Asked if he would want a public debate between the party's presidential candidates as is seen in many western democracies and if such an exercise would help delegates make up their minds, Tharoor said, "I would be open to the idea." "There are no ideological differences among us; rather, it is a question of how we propose to go about achieving the objectives we already agree upon," he said.

For one, between the last date for submission of nominations and the date for polls, there are roughly about two-and-a-half weeks and it would be, therefore, practically and logistically difficult to reach out to all the 9,000-odd delegates who are eligible to vote in these elections, he argued.

"In that sense, a platform where candidates can exchange their ideas and vision for the party in a constructive manner would potentially facilitate the transmission of these perspectives to more of the delegates than we can reach," the Thiruvanthapuram MP said.

At the same time, such an exchange of ideas would certainly garner much interest from non-voting sections as well, be it other Congress workers, the media and even the general Indian public, he said.

"As I have often pointed out, an exchange of ideas among candidates could have beneficial effects for the party -- for instance, we have seen the global interest in the British Conservative Party during their recent leadership race, a phenomenon we already witnessed in 2019, when a dozen candidates contested to replace Theresa May and Boris Johnson emerged on top," Tharoor said.

Replicating a similar scenario will similarly increase the national interest in the Congress party and galvanise more voters towards the party once again, he added.

PTI with inputs

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