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Shashi Tharoor Gulf News Archives Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Shashi Tharoor is one of the most well known politicians from India, regardless of being in or out of power. And on social media he could give tinsel town celebrities who are mostly famous for being famous a run for their money any day.

The three-time parliamentarian from Thiruvananthapuram is a celebrated columnist, public speaker and author. Suave, well spoken with a proclivity for high drama and controversies, this former international diplomat has been in the news for all the wrong and right reasons ever since he put an end to UN career and chose Indian politics as his next refuge.

Tharoor was indeed approached by all three factions — the Communists, the BJP and the Congress — when the rumour started to spread of his imminent foray into politics. On hindsight, there are no surprises here. One can actually see elements of all three in himself in varying degrees.

- Jaya Chandran

He was recently in the limelight for his initiatives to curb the impact of COVID-19 in Kerala. Using funds at his disposal as MP, he had procured thermal scanners from Amsterdam and brought them to India using multiple connection flights at a time flight services were truncated all over the world.

They were the first such ones to arrive in Kerala. During the crisis he stood by the local government in its efforts to control spread of the virus and even garnered praise from the Chief Minister and the usually unenthusiastic left circles.

Of course, there were disgruntled grumbles from his party men for not towing the usual opposition line: oppose anything from the government even at the people’s peril.

Political stardom

A political greenhorn by Indian standards, Tharoor achieved overnight stardom by airdropping himself into one of the highest offices in the country, which had known him only as an author and a UN diplomat. Right after wresting the coveted Thiruvananthapuram seat in 2009 general elections, he joined the cabinet of Dr Manmohan Singh.

Tharoor, who would later be hailed by many as a politician of the Nehruvian mould, reportedly had many options to choose from when his UN stint ended with an unsuccessful run for the Secretary General. These included coveted academic positions and top slots in international institutions, advocacy groups and journals.

The reason why he chose the dog-eat-dog world of Indian party politics instead of a stable and more suitable international career will remain a mystery but it is most likely that his stars could have tricked him into it. Whatever the reasons, even adversaries would agree that contemporary politics was made livelier by his entry.

Op-eds by Tharoor

Tharoor was indeed approached by all three factions — the Communists, the BJP and the Congress — when the rumour started to spread of his imminent foray into politics. On hindsight, there are no surprises here. One can actually see elements of all three in himself in varying degrees.

However, he chose Congress because he was ideologically comfortable with it, Tharoor was quoted as saying.

Now the big question is what is the ideology of a party like Congress that still can’t get out of a family kitchen? When the whole nation is in crying need for an opposition in the face of utter lawlessness wantonly unleashed by Hindutva forces all around.

A sailor of English language with an imp like fixation for trophy hunting and display of gargantuan words with no currency — oh, how the fans of English love this Colonialism critic — Tharoor may be able to explain away the choice but the fact remains his life will be forever marked by that one decision.

Friends to run away from

A man is noted by the company he keeps — or by the companions he flees away from. In Tharoor’s case the latter is more accurate. He has more friends to stay away from in Congress than those he can count on his little finger.

And every now and then, the nastiest of collegues will wake up from their slumber, look around and spew a little bit of venom on him and go back to sleep.

Tharoor is one senior congress leader who realised early that attacking Modi directly resulted in sympathy for the devil, the Hindutwa party. He was then admonished for this revelation and blamed of being soft on the saffron kind. That he was proven right didn’t make the adversaries go slow. If anything, they became more bitter.

The latest of such flare-ups happened a couple of weeks back. Tharoor’s party colleagues were obviously irked by his support to form a functioning central leadership instead of the imperiously incapable mother-son duo at the helm. The traditionally loyal Kerala leadership that puts dogs to shame lashed out against Tharoor.

He was called ‘guest artist’, ridiculed for being a ‘world citizen’ and publicly censured for making statements against the Family, also sometimes known as the party. Two former state presidents led the tirade against Tharoor while long-term MPs joined the melee.

It took quite some time for the sanity to prevail but Tharoor managed to put his point across before that: that he has single-handedly managed to make Kerala’s voice heard in Delhi than all his colleagues put together. Remember: Rahul Gandhi is also just another parliamentarian from Kerala.

Crab mentality

Devoid of a strong leadership or central plan, Congress is on the verge of being reduced to a mob party that reconvenes around a slogan or a person every time an election is around. If there is an ideology, that is of one-upmanship.

Factionalism galore and everyone is for himself or herself when they are not at it against each other. At all times. With the rise of BJP as the sole dominant player, Congress is only a distant second. It has even lost the official status of the leader of the opposition. Opportunities are less.

The competition inside the party is fierce. Only the crab mentality can explain the actions of the Kerala party leaders, especially towards the more successful ones. Out of envy, malice and bitterness, based on their own inferiority, they will continue to conspire with other mediocre crabs to bring down any one trying to climb up.

Congress and the BJP- fading lines

The attack against Tharoor is symptomatic and important in light of the undeclared joint efforts by Congress-led UDF and BJP to discredit the government and unseat the Left alliance from power in the state.

People are on the streets, completely ignoring the COVID-19 protocols at the behest of a few selfish leaders whose eyes are fixated on the Kerala Assembly polls due in April 2021.

There are widespread criticisms, and concerned voices within the Congress in Kerala itself has raised the issue that the state party under the stewardship of Ramesh Chennithala has lost the plot completely and is carrying out the errands of BJP in the state.

It is no secret that Tharoor has no strong party roots in the constituency, state or elsewhere. It is no secret either that Tharoor attracted votes from Congress, CPM and even BJP sympathisers in all the three elections he has won so far.

He has managed to transcend the party barrier with his personality, work and apparently non-partisan efforts for the constituency once he was elected to power.

He has also managed to somewhat reach out to the common public while still retaining an innocent charm that the thoroughbred Malayali politicians so pathetically lack. The average Kerala Congress career politicians have a lot to fear from Shashi Tharoor.