NEW DELHI: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday asserted that a reimagined party is needed to take on the BJP, while seeking support from party electors for his candidacy to the post of party chief.
Tharoor, who is canvassing for his candidature among party delegates, ruled out ideological difference with veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is also in the presidential race.
"Let me make clear that I agree with @kharge ji that all of us in @incIndia wish to take on the BJP rather than each other. There is no ideological difference between us. The choice for our voting colleagues Oct 17 is only on how to do it most effectively," Tharoor said in a tweet.
His remarks comes a day after Kharge said he conveyed to Tharoor that a consensus candidate would be better, but the Lok Sabha MP insisted on a contest for the "sake of democracy".
Tharoor, who is in Hyderabad in connection with his campaign for Congress presidential poll, said he has "enormous" respect for his rival Kharge.
"I believe we need a reinvented, reimagined Congress to take on the BJP. That's why I have continued with my candidacy in this election," he told reporters in Hyderabad.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP said he would not withdraw from the contest despite his respect for Kharge as that would amount to betrayal of many colleagues who urged him to contest.
His campaign is getting good response and he would visit cities including Chennai and Mumbai as well, he said.
"We want the Congress party to prevail once again in our country. As far as I am concerned, the only real difference in this election is about how we go about the challenges facing the Congress party in overcoming the BJP and its formidable electoral machine," he said.
The contest is a "discussion within the family" and there is no quarrel, he said.
Kharge has great experience, ability and knowledge, he said. "I bring a different approach and I put that before the voters to see what they want. But, I do want to stress. We are all in this together."
On his Twitter handle, Tharoor said he was delighted to receive the endorsement of Telangana Congress working president and cricket legend Mohammed Azharuddin.
"Azhar joins me in wanting change & reform in our party so as to better equip us to take on the BJP," he tweeted. Tharoor told reporters that irrespective of who emerges victorious, it would be the biggest victory for the Congress party.
Asked about Kharge's comments in favour of a consensus candidate, Tharoor described Kharge as a giant in the country's politics and said both of them wished each other well during a telephonic conversation.
On his comment favouring a public debate with Kharge, he said he was only responding to a question from a journalist. Tharoor said he was asked if he was prepared for a debate.
There is no need to debate because they both agree on the party's fundamental commitment to the ideas of India and the ideals enshrined in the Constitution, he said.
To a question on the Gandhi family being neutral vis-a-vis the presidential election, he said they welcome a free and fair election and that they would stay neutral.
On "G-23 group", he said it was a "media creation". Recalling past developments on that matter, he said a couple of senior leaders had written to the party high command on the desired reforms.
Due to the COVID induced lockdown in 2020, he said only 23 people were available to affix their signatures, backing them.
"That's why 23 signed. It could have been 100. It could have been less, it could have been more. These were the people who were available to sign," he said.
When told that there is a possibility of a Dalit leader (Kharge) becoming Congress president after many years if he withdraws from the contest, he said he sees Kharge as a very great leader well beyond any question of caste identity.
He said he would reach out to the voting delegates across the country once their phone numbers are available on Wednesday.
Former Union Minister M M Pallam Raju visited Tharoor. The polling for the Congress presidential election is scheduled to be held on October 17. The counting of votes would be taken up on October 19 and the results are expected the same day. More than 9,000 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates form the electorate.