Shashi Tharoor
Senior Congress leadership allegedly imposed a "ban" on a seminar by Youth Congress in Kerala in which Shashi Tharoor was expected to speak Image Credit: Supplied

In India, senior Congress leader and three time Member of Parliament (MP) from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor has been reduced to a nowhere man in the Congress party after his unsuccessful bid to be president.

The signs of being kept on ice are unmistakable. Tharoor does not figure in the list of star campaigners of the Congress party for the poll bound states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

The “star campaigner” list is given by political parties to the Election Commission as those who will hold rallies and other form of campaign and whose expenses will be borne by the concerned political party.

Another indication of Tharoor not being in the “good books” of the Congress High Command (read the Gandhi family) and the new Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge is that a function that was set to be hosted by the youth Congress was summarily cancelled.

Tharoor himself revealed in a tweet yesterday that he had a wonderful function with youth congress activists “after some came under pressure not to provide me a platform”.

Despite apparent lack of support from Congress leadership, Tharoor is currently on a Malabar tour Image Credit: ANI

While both Tharoor and Kharge maintained that the election for the Congress president was done in a “collegial spirit” showcasing “inner party democracy”, Tharoor is paying an unmistakable price for having chosen to run against the “official” — read Gandhi family — candidate.

Asks a senior Congress leader who is part of team Tharoor, “Have we got so many superstar leaders that the party can ignore Dr Tharoor? After all the public assurances of democracy and Rahul Gandhi frequently talking about love and collegial regard for his colleagues, Tharoor is an example that this is all lip service in the Congress party”.

Tharoor is not a mass leader, say Congress colleagues who seem rather baffled by the former United Nations diplomat. The fact that he has won a tough seat thrice from Thiruvananthapuram does not cut much ice with them. And, the Kerala state unit of the Congress is positively hostile to Tharoor.

Incredibly they did not even endorse his candidature as president. Says a Kerala Congress leader, “Tharoor is self obsessed. He does nothing for the party. He has been imposed on the Kerala Congress.”

Interestingly, most of Rahul Gandhi’s key aides come from the South and Kerala like K C Venugopal who are not very comfortable with the high profile Tharoor enjoys.

Tharoor is a craze among young urban Indians who make no bones about the fact that they look at the erudite, well spoken, muti lingual Tharoor as a role model. He is a distinguished author, having written multiple books.

Tharoor is a workaholic, who keeps a punishing schedule of public speaking, writing and has one of the best attendance records in Parliament, where he regularly speaks for his constituency and chairs a number of committees.

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Senior leaders say that Tharoor deserves to be the official leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha but his claims have been ignored by the Congress party. Tharoor was a member of the G-23 who tried to bring about accountability in the Congress.

But, with the departure of Kapil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad the G-23 is defunct. A member of the G-23 who quit the Congress says bitingly, “the leaders who matter in the Congress are envious of Shashi and his eloquence. Since they can’t compete, they lobby and try and cut him down.”

I have personally witnessed what a superstar Tharoor is at the Jaipur Literature Festival where I featured on a panel with him. Tharoor got a standing ovation and people queued up for hours for him to sign books and the obligatory selfie. Tharoor did it all with good humour despite having a flight to catch.

In his initial foray in to politics in India, Tharoor got in to trouble for using social media. Now the entire Congress party uses it.

Tharoor is man ahead of his time in the Congress, which is why he has been put on ice and the signals are unmistakable.