Ashok Gehlot backs Mallikarjun Kharge, says Tharoor from ‘elite class’

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Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Sunday offered his support to Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge in the party’s presidential poll, saying that his rival Shashi Tharoor belonged to an “elite class”, PTI reported.

“Tharoor is a class apart,” Gehlot told reporters. “He is from the elite class, but the kind of experience which is needed to strengthen the party at booth, block and district levels, that is with Kharge and cannot be compared to Tharoor.”

Gehlot also said Kharge was a person with a clean heart, that he was from from the Dalit community and welcomed by everyone in the Congress.

Tharoor and Kharge are contesting the election for the post of Congress president. The election to decide the successor to the longest-serving party president Sonia Gandhi will take place on October 17. The results will be announced two days later.

Besides Tharoor and Kharge, Jharkhand Congress leader KN Tripathi had also filed his nomination to contest the poll. However, his nomination was rejected.

Gehlot had also said that he will contest for the Congress president’s post last week. However, on Thursday, he said he was out of the race.

Gehlot had made the announcement after meeting Sonia Gandhi in Delhi. He told reporters that he had apologised to her after Rajasthan Congress MLAs defied the central observers by not attending a legislature party meeting in Jaipur on September 25.

The legislators had instead held another meeting and several of them loyal to Gehlot tendered their resignations, leading to a party crisis.

The MLAs had boycotted the meeting called to pass a resolution empowering the party president to pick Gehlot’s successor amid speculation that Sachin Pilot could be appointed the next chief minister.

On Sunday, Gehlot referred to the crisis saying that it should be looked into why there was resentment among MLAs over the name of a new chief minister in Rajasthan.

“When a chief minister is changed, 80-90% [MLAs] leave him and switch sides,” Gehlot said, according to PTI. “They turn to the new candidate. I don’t consider it wrong. But it was a new case in Rajasthan where the MLAs got agitated just by the name of a new chief minister.”

He also said that he had informed Gandhi and Congress’ Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken in August about stepping down as chief minister.

“I had already conveyed…that it is not necessary that I should be the chief minister,” Gehlot said. “I told them that I am ready to withdraw as CM. I said I will support and campaign because it should be our aim to revive the Congress party.”

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