Tharoor losing out in Delhi, and Kerala as well

Tharoor losing out in Delhi, and Kerala as well

His fate in their hands: Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan SinghN

ot many who had turned up to watch a friendly cricket match between external affairs ministry and Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) in the national capital on March 7, 2010 noticed a pretty woman admiring the maverick Shashi Tharoor in cricket gear. Nor any eyebrows raised when a couple of days later the same woman travelled with Tharoor on his two-day tour of Assam. But everyone did when cameras clicked away to glory as the couple, almost hand-in-hand, graced an art exhibition on April 12, the day the present IPL controversy erupted. April 13, as the IPL drama caught the nation’s imagination, Tharoor started withdrawing himself from public glare. He skipped a function where he was to release a book. That is very uncharacteristic of the person who loves publicity. The woman in question is Sunanda Pushkar, who is close to Tharoor, what with talks that the two are planning to marry.
These events, spanning just over a month, perhaps sums up the path that the controversial minister of state for external affairs has traversed. His “mentor” role in the Kochi IPL team and Sunanda’s involvement with the Kochi franchise has now threatened to take away his ministerial position. The Opposition in Parliament is baying for his resignation. His party, the ruling Congress too is not happy with his conduct. A senior party leader said: “Tharoor was made minister thinking that he would be an asset to the UPA government but he has turned out to be a liability”. The party’s disenchantment with the former UN senior official’s penchant for courting controversies seems to be complete.
Perhaps no minister or a partyman has embarrassed the government or the party like the 54-year old junior minister has done during the past 10 months as Tharoor has done. His love for ‘tweeting’ and the ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease has often put the government in an awkward position.

Sample these:
*When the government’s austerity drive was on, he stayed in a five-star hotel. The justification he gave was that he needed “a gym and some privacy.” The party had to ask him to vacate the hotel room.

*As ministers were told to travel economy class to enforce austerity, Tharoor tweeted to say that he was being pushed into traveling in the “cattle class.” His party that swears by Aam Admi made it clear that the minister’s remarks were “unacceptable and totally insensitive”.

*Talking about India’s foreign policy, he criticised Jawaharlal Nehru’s approach: “It was more like a moralistic running commentary”. No Congress man worth his place in the party has ever dared to question the Nehruvian foreign policy line.

*On a recent tour along with Prime Minister, Tharoor set off yet another controversy as he stated that Saudi Arabia could be a “valuable interlocutor” between India and Pakistan. He was contradicting India’s position which has always been against third party involvement in Indo-Pak relations.

Is Tharoor testing the patience of the Congress leadership and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was instrumental in taking the Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram in his ministry? Many in the party underline he is.

That the party leaders and MPs are distancing themselves from Tharoor was evident during the week when the controversy over the ownership pattern of the Kochi IPL team, in which his friend Sunanda Pushkar was given a Rs. 74 crore ‘sweat equity’, was the talk of the town. Sonia Gandhi met the controversial minister for just five minutes that too after making him wait for three days.

There was not a single MP who came to his support as he rose to make a statement in Lok Sabha on Friday. That Sonia Gandhi, almost always present in the House, especially during the morning half, was absent at that point of time, did not go unnoticed by Tharoor-watchers.

Not allowed to makethe statement by a united and unrelenting opposition, Tharoor had to read out his statement before the media, outside Parliament. At least one ministerial colleague of Tharoor joined the opposition chorus in seeking his resignation, albeit indirectly: Farooq Abdullah said he would have resigned if he were Tharoor. The former J&K chief minister is a member of the governing council of the IPL.

Ever since the IPL ownership tangle hit national headlines and the heat was on minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor, there has been a deafening silence in his constituency Thiruvananthapuram. Not too many words of support were uttered for the party’s flamboyant former UN top official whom they had elected last year with a convincing margin.

On the third day, a few activists of the Youth Congress took out a demonstration and burnt IPL commissioner Lalit Modi’s effigy. “We had to arrange that as a token protest as it was too embarrassing to reveal that there was none to come forward for the MP.” a senior Congress leader told Deccan Herald.

Surprising as it may seem that a leader who had instilled a newfound enthusiasm among the middle class in the state should become friendless in his party in so short a period. His professional accomplishments, articulate nature, no-nonsense attitude and suave handling of the national media had made a great impression ahead of the elections.
Reports of how he insisted on contesting the election instead of getting into Parliament as a nominated member also earned him immense admiration among the political class. Yet, there were many in the state Congress who thought Tharoor was a rank outsider who managed the Thiruvananthapuram ticket to Lok Sabha through what they termed a “management quota”. 

There has been a growing distance between the minister and the party in Kerala ever since his election last year. “Accessibility is a problem for the party workers as he is not available at their beck and call. Confounded Tharoor’s problems are the actions of his OSD Jacob Joseph who has been calling the shots and creating hurdles,” says the senior leader. The Congress also does not subscribe to the elite company that Tharoor appears to prefer when he is in the constituency. “He is more often seen among intellectuals, businessmen and management exponents rather than party workers.

All said, the Congress leaders do claim that Tharoor is a gentleman to the core, uncorrupt and keen to net projects for his constituency. The IPL Kochi franchise showed his eagerness to project his state nationally and help improve sports infrastructure. His tech-savvy ways to communicate to the people have also got him a few admirers among the newly elected party MPs.

“Philandering” not good
CPI district secretary P Ramachandran Nair whom Tharoor defeated in the Lok Sabha election begs to differ. “IPL is shady business and corruption is very much in the air.
Tharoor has done nothing for his constituency in the last one year and his pet projects like the twinning of Thiruvananthapuram city with Barcelona makes no sense to the common man,” he said. Nair said that the Left Democratic Front was slated to step up its campaign against the minister on various fronts apart from the IPL issue. “People’s representatives should also maintain decorum in public life and his public fling with a woman when he is not yet divorced does not behove of a leader,” Nair said. Whatever may be the perception of youths on a public personality’s love interests, state Congress leaders say they disapprove of Tharoor’s philandering as it shows even the party in bad light. “It’s a fact that in Kerala people don’t take kindly to flirting leaders,” said a leader.

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