AND now, some more about Shashi Tharoor. There have been comments on him by practically all English newspapers, alas, not always friendly. The Mumbai-based DNA (April 20) thought that Tharoor’s exit from the government as Minister of State for External Affairs “may not be the end of his little dalliance with politics but could provide him an interlude to reflect on the weird demands of public life”. The paper quoted some who thought that Tharoor “was a competent minister who did the work assigned to him” but added that “he seemed obsessed with informing the world how clever he was, with both thoughts and words”.
However, the paper said, “it is one thing to send out tweets about holy cows and admonish those who do not have a sense of humour (and) quite another to help your relatives and friends make a few bucks in a blatant manner without employing all the cover-up mechanisms available to politicians in India”. “For Tharoor” said the paper, “this episode is something of an object lesson on how not to operate as a minister”. Some may rue the fact that an intelligent, well-spoken and capable man has been removed from his job, but those attributes, said DNA, “are clearly not enough”. “To survive”, it added, “you have to know the rules of the game and Tharoor, it seems, just did not bother to learn”.
The Asian Age (April 20) was harsher in its comments. Saying that “what started off with a bang ended up ingloriously with a tweet”, the paper said the facts as revealed “were too stark for the novelist to be able to obfuscate with a play of words and carry conviction”. It recalled some of the problems earlier raised by Tharoor like staying in a five-star hotel suite costing Rs 40,000 a day, ridiculing austerity measures with his ‘cattle class’ remark, mocking the policies of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, all of which said the paper “smacked of elitism, something that politicians in any democracy should avoid like the plague for their own good”. The paper pointedly remarked: “The MP who won the Thiruvananthapuram seat with a one-lakh-plus majority less than a year ago, could not generate even a single demonstration in his favour in his constituency in the past one week.” By way of conclusion it added: “Mr Tharoor held out great promise when he joined the government in 2009; but today hardly a tear will be shed over his departure. In Machiavellian terms, his downfall holds practical lessons for other new-age politicians-don’t act too smart and remember that those who project themselves as a cut above the rest will surely be cut to size.”
The Telegraph (April 20) said Shashi Tharoor “could have retained his honour by resigning as soon as the scandal broke” but having failed to do that “he has now lost both his ministership and his honour”. Sharply critical, the paper said, “Mr Tharoor obviously has delusions about his own indispensability” believing “that his own protestations about his innocence would be taken seriously”. “He could have fallen from grace more gracefully, but he chose not to, and thus cut a rather pathetic figure,” the paper added. Actually, the paper said, “the whole affair could have been nipped in the bud by making Mr Tharoor resign as soon as his impropriety was public knowledge” but instead “he was allowed to make a spectacle of himself in the Lok Sabha_” with the party not acting “with greater swiftness”. By way of warning, the paper said: “The UPA’s commitment to a cleaner public life will stand up to scrutiny if it takes action against the IPL which appears to be completely rotten.” The Hitavada (April 20) said that Mr Tharoor has always been embroiled in controversies and has hurt many of his colleagues in the Cabinet “who may have been breathing easy now”. Meanwhile, the paper wondered whether the government will use the opportunity to clean the corrupt stables of the IPL. “Is there a political will to do so?” the paper asked. It further asked: “Mr Tharoor is gone because he belonged to the government. What about others who are neck deep in the murky deals like him, but have managed to stay afloat? Why can’t they be also held accountable? Why not take action against the Board of Control for Cricket in India for allowing murky deals in the IPL go unchecked?” The IPL, said the paper, was “going to make the rich super-rich and turn ill-gotten black money into white”. Are we, then, to conclude that Tharoor has no friends?
Ah, at least he has one, in the person of Rajeev Srinivasan, a management consultant who, writing in a Mumbai paper DNA (April 21 ) said: “To lose the one person who is on first-name terms with most world leaders is not exactly a good thing.” Srinivasan who claims that he has been “acquainted with the Tharoor family for years” noted that “Shashi would be offended if someone tried to bribe him”. Srinivasan blamed the media. “The fact that there was media uproar about trivial issues suggests that these were planted in the pliant media”, he said. Presumably, according to him, “there is professional jealousy in the Congress Party, because Tharoor has not gone through the mill pressing the flesh and building up IOUs in smoke-filled backrooms”. As for the allegations regarding his girlfriend, Srinivasan’s reaction was: “Why would someone as smart as Shashi hurt his political career doing something as blatant as this?”
The obvious conclusion, according to Srinivasan, is that Tharoor has been framed. As he put it: “Shashi has been crudely smeared. Fortunately, this is not the last we will hear from him. He’s too good a person to keep down”. In further defence of Tharoor, Srinivasan made the point that “there is a sinister possibility that Tharoor was getting rather too popular for his own good” insisting that “there is an axiom in the Congress Party whereby non-dynasty people have a glass ceiling” and that “as soon as someone is viewed as a threat of even the smallest kind to the dynasty scion, he is cut to size”.
Whether one accepts Srinivasan’s arguments or not, what is to be admired is his guts to stand up for a friend. It could not have been easy for him. His arguments do not at all sound convincing, even if one concedes that making money was not exactly in Tharoor’s mind when he supported his girlfriend. No support came from his constituency. He should therefore feel grateful to God that he has at least one friend to shield him during hard times. That,