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Shashi Tharoor's outreach giving jitters to Congressmen in Kerala?

Shashi Tharoor's tour programmes in Kerala have become hugely controversial for the Congress, with the rumours of a rising Tharoor faction reaching a new level after his Malappuram visit.

Shashi Tharoor tour programmes in Kerala giving jitters to Congressmen in the state
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First Published Nov 23, 2022, 9:25 AM IST

Will the decisive minority vote bank see Congress Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor as a truly secular leader in Congress? The timing cannot be missed. On Tuesday, Tharoor visited the leaders of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the ally of Congress, in Kochi amidst rumours of a 'Tharoor faction' in the party. His first big political tour in the northern region of the state, far away from his constituency Thiruvananthapuram, has already created a rumble in the party.

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The meeting lasted more than one hour and was held at Panakkad in the Malappuram district. Tharoor met Sadiqali Shihab Thangal, state president of the IUML, at his house at Panakkad. Senior IUML leader PK Kunhalikkutty also attended the meeting.

Later, speaking to the media, Tharoor clarified that he was not interested in creating another faction in Congress, which already has A and I groups. "If there has to be another alphabet, it should be U, for United," Tharoor said.

"Our efforts are towards uniting everyone as the party moves forward. I have no intention of or interest in forming another faction within the party," he said.

Tharoor also clarified that there was nothing strange about his Panankkad visit and that he always makes it a point to meet the IUML leader every time he comes to Malappuram. He said that his association with the Muslim League dates back a long and that he had campaigned for the party's candidates many times.

Elaborating on the meeting with IUML leaders, he said that they only discussed politics in general, and Congress and its internal matters did not come up in their conversations.

But Tharoor's tour programmes in Kerala have become hugely controversial for the Congress, with the rumours of a rising Tharoor faction reaching a new level after his Malappuram visit. Worried about Tharoor's growing popularity in the party, Congress leaders in the state are reportedly trying their best to put an end to his 'parallel activities'. Though no objection has yet been raised by Congress leaders, the murmur is indeed getting louder.

It is interesting to note that Tharoor began his Kerala expedition immediately after Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K Sudhakaran, gave the statement that he had given protection to the RSS shakhas years ago.

Some of his earlier pro-RSS statements and his political stand had made Sudhakaran a sore thumb in the UDF where fragile communal equations are delicately balanced.

Tharoor's popularity was clearly proved when he ran for Congress president last month. Though he lost, a huge part of his votes came from Kerala. For many workers of the party in Kerala, especially the youngsters, Tharoor represents a new future for Congress. This new affinity came to light when, on Sunday, a seminar on 'Sangh Parivar and Challenges to Secularism' organised by the Youth Congress was called off in Kozhikode, it was eventually hosted by Congress MP Raghavan and other young leaders.

For many in the party, Tharoor has all the qualities that once made K Karunakaran a unique political presence. He is educated, practical and secular.  His stand against Modi and Sangh has been clearly pronounced, and his approach toward Hinduism has been distinctly different from the Sangh brand.

This makes him acceptable to a wider section of party workers and loyalists. Naturally, other Congress leaders can feel inferior on almost all counts. And the Kerala tour by Tharoor is obviously giving them the jitters.

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