Union minister Shashi Tharoor has backed Rahul Gandhi for prime minister, saying people with lesser credentials than the Congress vice president have in the past turned out to be good leaders and Gandhi was the "right alternative" to a "divisive force like Modi".
Appearing on the "Right To Be Heard Town Hall election special of Headlines Today, Tharoor was asked why Gandhi and not more educated, more experienced, more knowledgeable leaders were not being projected by the party. "People with lesser credentials than Rahul have made good leaders. The Congress has a solid bench strength which will help Rahul give direction. The Congress has a very good leadership team," he said.
Tharoor said he himself had wondered how Rajiv Gandhi, a pilot, could lead the country, but Rajiv did an outstanding job. "The fact is, credentials are your performance, not your resume. What are Narendra Modi's credentials?" he asked.
Tharoor said Rahul Gandhi had proved his credentials by transforming the Youth Congress and his decision to hold primaries to choose candidates for the Lok Sabha polls.
Tharoor described the contest between Gandhi and Modi as one between "a potential anarchist" and "a potential democrat". "Rahul inspires a lot of people. Modi has rhetorical flourish, Rahul speaks from the heart," he said.
Tharoor said Gandhi has a much bigger connect with student audiences than Modi. He said the Congress vice president was the "unifying force in the large tent that the Congress is. He is the right alternative against a divisive force like Modi".
But Tharoor admitted that the Gujarat chief minister was attracting allies. "I do accept that many feel that Modi is someone they can do business with. But these are all short-term political calculations."
Tharoor, who is contesting again from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala, defended the Congress's continued criticism of Modi, holding him responsible for the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
Asked why the Congress was not taking on Modi on his development claims, he said: "Modi cannot wish away his past. Silence is not absolution." Tharoor also took potshots at the Aam Aadmi Party, saying "(Former Delhi chief minister Arvind) Kejriwal is a one issue man". "He sees corruption in everything. I would like to imagine there are people of integrity in politics, in bureaucracy. Kejriwal doesn't," he said.
Tharoor also ridiculed the message the AAP was sending out that the 2014 polls were about Modi and Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi did not figure. "All Kejriwal and his ministers proved when they were in power was that they could create anarchy by doing dharnas," he said.