Shashi Tharoor: The Cat With Nine Lives

Like a cat with nine lives, Tharoor has committed sins and returned back. If the cat had only nine lives, maybe Tharoor’s time is over now.

The Congress party houses very few leaders who are very articulate and enjoy a popular support base.

Shashi Tharoor is one of those few leaders who, despite anti-incumbency, won the Thiruvananthapuram seat against Bhartiya Janata Party’s O Rajagopal in Lok Sabha elections held this year.

He has been in the Congress high command’s near-and-dear book for quite some time.

But the rebel in Tharoor has time and again led to his dismissal.

Tharoor was sacked from his post of Congress spokesperson days after Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee took offence to his praises towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi – the Lord Voldemort for Congress.

Like a cat with nine lives, Tharoor has committed sins and returned back.

Here are those controversies which led to his sacking and thrashing but he bounced back:

>   After UPA’s second win in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the Congress party decided to maintain austerity. Tharoor was appointed as a minister. Yet he chose to go against the words of high command and in September 2009, he along with SM Krishna stayed in luxurious 5-star hotel. Even after arm-twisting by his party, Tharoor defended himself saying that it was because of the delay in his official residence being ready and he only spent from his own pocket for the accommodation. Later, Pranab Mukherjee had to intervene and the matter was solved after Tharoor moved out of hotel.

>   Who can forget Tharoor’s famous “cattle class” quote? Tharoor had equated the economy class travelling public as cattle class. Tharoor’s explanation that “cattle class” was a well-established phrase for economy class travel, and that it attacked the airlines and not the passengers, was ignored in the outcry. It was also reported that Congress may take action against him. But the matter was sent packing in a cold box after then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed it as a “joke”.

>   Tharoor’s marital life was always in the public eye and courted many controversies which led to his disagreement with the party as well. The whole IPL controversy revolved around Tharoor and his wife Sunanda Pushkar. He was dropped as minister for his role in getting Sunanda a sweat equity in the Kochi-IPL team.

>   Another controversy erupted on Gandhi Jayanti when he said people should be working rather than staying at home taking a holiday, thereby paying real homage to Mahatma Gandhi. Interestingly, this year when Narendra Modi is Prime Minister, all government offices were open for work.

>   Tharoor was in the news again for publicly criticizing the new visa guidelines adopted by the UPA in the wake of the gaps exposed by the arrest of 26/11 terror suspects, David Headley and Tahawwur Rana. For this, he was criticized for breaking ranks with the official position of the government. He later met External Affairs Minister, SM Krishna and explained his position on the issue. The rules were subsequently partly modified.

>   In January 2010, Tharoor reportedly criticized Gandhi and Nehru for their vision on Indian foreign policy. This angered Congress so much that he was reprimanded by none other than Nehru-Gandhi patrons of the party. Later, he held a press conference describing the reports as “inaccurate” and “tendentious”.

>   In February 2010 when accompanying the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, he said “We feel that Saudi Arabia has a long and close relationship with Pakistan, that makes Saudi Arabia even more a valuable interlocutor for us. When we tell them about our experience, Saudi Arabia listens as somebody who is not in any way an enemy of Pakistan, but a friend of Pakistan and, therefore, will listen with sympathy and concern to a matter of this nature”. He was asked whether India expected Saudi Arabia, given their close ties with Islamabad, to help address the terror threat from Pakistan. The remark about Saudi Arabia being a “valuable interlocutor” raised a strong reaction within the Indian political circle. The Pakistani press even went on to report that he had proposed that Saudi Arabia play a mediator’s role in improving India’s relationship with Pakistan. In response, Tharoor denied that ‘interlocutor’ meant ‘mediator’, and tweeted an explanation, saying, “An interlocutor is someone you speak to. If I speak to you, you are my interlocutor. I mentioned the Saudis as our interlocutors, i.e. the people we are here to speak to.”

>   While the two days AICC meeting was taking place in New Delhi, Tharoor’s wife Sunanda was found dead in her hotel room early morning on January 17 this year. The sudden death followed a public spat between the couple where Sunanda accused Tharoor of having relationships with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar. She sent messages through Tharoor’s twitter handle which latter had projected as “hacking” by some miscreants. Sunanda had called a press brief the morning she died to do some kind of expose on IPL case and other issues of national importance as well. This death has cast a long shadow on the MP.

These eight strikes met the ninth when Tharoor praised Modi for his Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

If the cat had only nine lives, maybe Tharoor’s time is over now.

(with inputs from Wikipedia)

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