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“Is This A Friendly Match?” Shashi Tharoor’s Jab At Left Over Poll Tactic

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Congress MP Shashi Tharoor speaking to NDTV.

Thiruvananthapuram:

Shashi Tharoor – looking to win the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat for a fourth consecutive term – has once again questioned the campaign strategy of the Left front, even as he admitted that long-standing variations in political ideologies could mean parties that have allied in one state could be rivals in another, and that this is neither surprising nor a point of concern for the Congress.

Speaking to NDTV after casting his vote, Mr Tharoor acknowledged ideological differences between the Congress and the Left, but said, “When we are fighting an election to change the government in Delhi… this is a national election. The objective is to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party.”

Mr Tharoor – who earlier too had complained that the Left parties, members of the INDIA bloc, were dividing anti-BJP votes – asked, “How is it then that the entire Left campaign has focused on attacking me and my party… and not said one word against the BJP, its government or candidate?”

READ | Shashi Tharoor’s Thiruvananthapuram Streak In BJP’s Crosshair

“All I am asking is… how is it the entire Left campaign has focused on attacking me? I only asked an innocent question… is this a friendly match? Normally, you expect a candidate not only to speak for himself but also attack rivals. But here, there was only one rival being attacked. That was all.”

READ | Left Campaign Attacking Me Can Only Help BJP: Shashi Tharoor

In the 2024 election Mr Tharoor faces the BJP’s Rajeev Chandrasekhar and the Communist Party of India’s Panniyan Raveendran. The CPI, part of the ruling Left front in the state, is also part of the INDIA opposition bloc led by the Congress. However, the party has fielded a candidate of its own.

The CPI has also fielded a candidate against Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad; senior leader Annie Raja is standing against the Congress leader. The Congress’ decision to field Mr Gandhi from Kerala and not return him to win back the family stronghold in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh was criticised by the Left.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, whose Communist Party of India (Marxist) is also part of the INDIA bloc, demanded to know why the Congress and Mr Gandhi had chosen to fight an ally, when he could take on the BJP in a potentially statement-making contest in Amethi.

Mr Tharoor, however, played down any possible rift between the allies.

“Each Indian state has its own political character… it is not uncommon that we are allies in one state and not in a neighbouring state. For example, in Kerala the Left and Congress-led UDF (United Democratic Front) have been at loggerheads for over 55 years… that won’t change overnight.”

“But next door, in Tamil Nadu, the CPM, CPI, Muslim League… are our allies, and the Congress is allied with the (ruling) DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). So no issue… just as in Delhi the AAP and Congress have an understanding but in Punjab we don’t. So this isn’t surprising. Nobody is worried.”

Asked if he is confident about his chances from Thiruvananthapuram, Mr Tharoor said, “I am as confident as I was earlier. The people of Thiruvananthapuram have entrusted me with their faith in three successive elections, and am very confident they will do so again in this election.”

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He said the pattern of the last three elections was being repeated. “The BJP campaigns expensively. I campaign extensively,” he said, underlining his ‘local’ credentials. “I seem to be the only principal candidate voting in the city… all others seem to have allegiances elsewhere. I vote and live here… this is my only address and my final address since my return to India…”

The Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat is one of 20 in Kerala, all of which vote today, in the second phase of polling. In 2019 the Congress swept the state, winning 15 seats. Its allies, the India Union Muslim League, won two, and the Kerala Congress and Revolutionary Socialist Party one each.

The CPIM, not an ally then either, got just one seat, while the BJP got zero.

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