'Tweet, but don't hurt aam aadmi'

'Tweet, but don't hurt aam aadmi'

Shashi Tharoor meets Sonia and Manmohan

'Tweet, but don't hurt aam aadmi'

Shashi Tharoor

“Tweet, but carefully. Crack jokes, but don’t hurt the aam aadmi.”

This is what Sonia Gandhi is believed to have told Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor when he called on the Congress president and UPA chairperson at her residence here on Tuesday.
Tharoor had triggered a controversy by terming the economy class “cattle class” in his post on the social networking site Twitter. While the Congress condemned his remark and termed it “insensitive” and “unacceptable,” party heavyweights like Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Union Rural Development Minister C P Joshi said Tharoor should resign. Tharoor was on an official tour to Liberia and Ghana when his tweeting sparked off the controversy.

Soon after returning to New Delhi, the minister rushed to Sonia’s residence and explained that he had not intended to show any disrespect to the economy class passengers. He later called on Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Tharoor did not speak to journalists in front of the Congress president’s residence.

“Any well-wisher of the Congress, the UPA government... will advise him to desist from even jokingly making any comment or action that would hurt the sentiments of the common man,” Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed later told mediapersons at the party headquarters. Congress spokespersons have been harsh on Tharoor ever since the former UN under secretary-general tweeted in response to a question that he would fly in “cattle class in solidarity with the holy cows” when he travelled to his home state Kerala next time.

Despite trying to soothe ruffled feathers within the Congress, the first-time MP from Thiruvananthapuram rued in one of his tweets that people had not appreciated humour.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had set at rest speculation about the resignation of Tharoor by terming his remark a mere joke. “The party cannot take stern action on him, after the prime minister himself played down his ‘cattle class’ remark,” said a senior functionary of the AICC.

The minister’s tweet came after Gandhi set the austerity agenda for the party and the UPA government to express solidarity with the drought-hit millions across the country.