Tharoor's a tale of opportunity lost

Tweeter shown the door: He was directly parachuted from UN to South Block

Tharoor's a tale of opportunity lost

Mediapersons wait outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence for information on the fate of Shashi Tharoor in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI

As the Congress leadership was smarting from embarrassments and controversies one after the other surrounding Tharoor ever since he was chosen to be a member of the Manmohan Singh government last May, the allegation of misusing his office and impropriety in getting his friend Sunanda Pushkar Rs 74-crore “sweat equity” in the Kochi IPL team was the final nail in the coffin of the minister.

Politically, Tharoor was left with no friends within the Congress though he was brought into the party and made a minister by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. That he was parachuted directly from the UN to South Block via, of course, the Lok Sabha election was not liked by many. The Congress has a policy of not making any first time MP minister. However, this guideline was waived for Tharoor.  According to informed sources, no one in the core committee, which decided that the junior minister should go, defended Tharoor in Sunday’s meeting. It was reflective of happenings that were played out last week when hardly any Congress leader or MP supported the minister.

An unrelenting Opposition, united as it was, was the other major reason for the Congress chief and the prime minister to call an end to the Tharoor innings. The two top leaders had forgiven all the embarrassments that the minister of state caused, including his airing policy matters on Twitter, his “cattle class” comment and his stay in five star hotel when the austerity drive was on, making light of Nehru’s foreign policy, or his remark that Saudi Arabia can be an interlocutor between India and Pakistan.

Tharoor’s case has a striking resemblance to that of Natwar Singh who was also asked to resign following the Volcker committee report. Both were ministers in the foreign office and both faced corruption charges. Both refused to resign and finally had to be asked by the party to go.

While in Tharoor’s case a woman was involved, Natwar resigned as his son was named by the UN independent inquiry committee (popularly known as Volcker committee) as a beneficiary of illegal payoffs in the “Iraqi oil scam.” Natwar was forced to resign from the cabinet on December 6, 2005. Interestingly, Natwar was asked to go when the prime minister returned from a tour of Moscow, Tharoor made his exit after Manmohan Singh’s tour of the US and Brazil.

Besides IPL Kochi, there are other Kerala angles that led to the downfall of Tharoor. Panchayat elections are about to take place, assembly polls are scheduled for next year and Tharoor in saddle would be fodder for the Opposition in Kerala. These plus the fact that Tharoor never had any friends in the State Congress had also led to his downfall. The BJP can claim credit for picking up the issue early and maintaining the momentum till the end. For the UPA, it needs the Opposition support in passing the crucial Finance Bill as well as various key bills which are slated to come up during the session.

One Congress MP summed up the tangle thus: “Though Tharoor was a novice in politics, Sonia Gandhi and the prime minister gave him a wonderful opportunity by offering him not only Congress ticket, but also making him minister. An indifferent Tharoor — despite his credentials as an excellent orator, impeccable writer and intellectual—lost that opportunity through his misdemeanours. There is nobody to blame except himself.”

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