Twin jobs

After a lot of tribulation and turmoil, Mallikarjun Kharge has emerged the candidate of choice of the Gandhi family
in the race for Congress president. Consequently, senior party leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister
Digvijaya Singh, who also enjoyed the family’s support, bowed out of the contest. So, now there will be a two-
horse race, with former Union minister Shashi Tharoor challenging Kharge. It may be mentioned here that
Tharoor is among the rebel G-23 leaders who are not very happy with the Gandhis. Kharge may quit as Leader of
Opposition in Rajya Sabha in accordance with the grand old party’s ‘one person, one post’ rule. After the fiasco of
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s candidature, the family’s choice of Kharge seems quite sensible on
several counts. First, the 80-year-old veteran from Karnataka is unlikely to rebel or betray the GOP’s first family.
This is very important, for the family sets much store by loyalty; what hurt it most in the Gehlot episode was the
stubbornness of the Rajasthan Chief Minister and his followers. Second, Kharge is widely respected among
Congress leaders. For instance, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, a leading light of the G-
23 group, has reportedly supported Kharge. Third, Kharge is a Dalit, which can help the Congress in electoral
terms, given the tokenism that is prevalent in politics in general. It is another matter that he doesn’t like being
called a ‘Dalit leader.’
Another good thing about Kharge as Congress presidential candidate is that Singh is out of the race. It is a
well-known fact that Singh has been an easy target for the Bharatiya Janata Party and other saffron outfits
because of his staunch (which sometimes becomes rabid) opposition to Hindutva and its protagonists.
Remember how he was roasted on social media by using the expression ‘Osama-ji’? Kharge, in contrast, doesn’t
have any such baggage. Age, however, is not on his side. There may be a question mark over his capacity to
undergo the physical and mental strain of such an onerous task. It is now up to the 9,000-odd Congress electors
who have to decide whether they want an old family loyalist or a younger rebel as the party chief. If they opt for
Tharoor, the chances of which seem to be very low, they would be voting for a major transformation, if not
metamorphosis, of the party; under party president Tharoor, the GOP may cease to be a family enterprise as it is
now. If, on the other hand, they choose Kharge, they would be voting for continuity with very little change. The
Gandhi family will keep calling the tune, which is mostly discordant these days. The family seems to have
mastered the art of losing friends and antagonising people. Therefore, Kharge, if elected, will have twin :
reviving the party which is in ICU; and convincing the family not to do more damage.