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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tharoor go, save your class

By Swapan Dasgupta

The recent controversy to have hit the embarrassment-prone Minister of State Shashi Tharoor has been interpreted by some observers as a clash involving the ‘old’ and the emergent India. Tharoor’s cosmopolitanism, his willingness to tap social networking for political ends and his flamboyance, verging on exhibitionism, has been invoked to suggest a departure from the stodgy hypocrisy of Indian politics.

On his part, Tharoor consciously promoted his own superior distinctiveness, grabbed a disproportionate share of media space and riled colleagues with his smug superciliousness. Escalating resentment against the interloper was undeniably a factor behind trivial pickups, such as the one of his ‘cattle class’ tweet, turning into battles of a class war. The simmering tension between vernacular India and English-speaking India erupted into the open with Tharoor.

Apart from the fact that neither St Stephen’s nor the UN bureaucracy had equipped him to fight the ugliness of the class war, Tharoor was insufficiently attentive to the fact that unlike the media, diplomacy and even the professions, politics is not the preserve of the PLUs.

To survive in the cut throat world of netagiri, PLUs have to overcome their class background unless, of course, they are blessed by family ties.

An appreciation of the social turbulence that Tharoor predictably encountered in his first year in politics is not to endorse his argument that entrenched ‘vested interests’ picked on the new boy and gobbled him up for nashta. Being an orphan of Macaulay has its own problems in today’s India but the disability of upbringing is compounded if question marks are attached to the person’s integrity.

Rajiv Gandhi was treated with exceptional indulgence in the first two years of his prime ministerial life. However, once the Bofors scandal raised concerns over his integrity, particularly his family’s links to Ottavio Quattrocchi, he found himself being incessantly mocked at for being a babalog. The derision cost him the 1989 election.


In his interview to NDTV, Tharoor self-righteously proclaimed that in his long and distinguished career in international public diplomacy no one had ever raised a question about his integrity. He is absolutely right. As someone who has known him since 1972, I must confess a sense of bewilderment when the Delhi grapevine first started picking up whispers centred on the IPL bidding. Tharoor may be faulted or even appreciated for his earlier lapses but sleaze and Shashi didn’t seem co-terminus.


I have to confess that many of us have been deeply disappointed. The facts of the Sunanda Pushkar ‘sweat equity’ allotment are very damning. Tharoor’s deep involvement with the Kochi bid was an open secret and even an admitted fact. Delhi society was also fully aware of his liaison with Sunanda — he made the association pretty public — and his proposed marriage to her. She accompanied the Minister on what we presume was an official visit to Assam and there is TV footage of her being welcomed by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. There was nothing discreet or distant about the relationship. She was a lady much more than someone Tharoor ‘knew well’.


Under the circumstances, the extremely generous disbursement of free equity worth approximately Rs 70 crore (but whose worth could multiply nearly six times in five years) to Sunanda appears fishy to say the least. Tharoor has claimed that the arrangement owed to her ‘proven expertise’ in marketing and running businesses. It is a claim that appears to be based on unrecognised potential and has drawn derisory responses.

Equally, Tharoor’s suggestion that the attacks on Sunanda are indicative of gender bias has appeared expedient. The awkward conclusion is that cold business logic cannot justify such an incredibly lucrative bonanza for Sunanda. No wonder her denial that she is a ‘proxy’ for the Minister has been greeted with scepticism. Even the Congress has not been convinced that Tharoor and Sunanda are personally linked but professionally detached.

Tharoor has divulged many explosive details about the murkiness of the IPL. His attacks on Lalit Modi have struck a chord and put pressure on the BCCI to take a more direct interest in the business of the tournament. There are strong indications that Tharoor’s intervention may also facilitate the appointment of a professional CEO for IPL.

Likewise, Tharoor’s point about spreading cricket to Kerala is well taken and it is unlikely that Kochi will be deprived of its IPL team.

However, none of this detracts from the fact that Tharoor hasn’t been able to explain Sunanda’s stake in the Kochi team to everyone’s satisfaction. As a person well versed in the ways of the world, he was aware that it was the non-disclosure of a friendly loan of £ 373,000 from a colleague that led to the resignation of Peter Mandelson from the British Cabinet in 1996. He may have also been aware that generous salary increases and promotions to his girlfriend Shaha Riza led to the resignation of Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank president in 2007. Tharoor must, in addition, be only too familiar with the nepotism that sullied the record of his former boss, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.


As an avowed believer in openness, transparency and probity in public life, Tharoor can hardly deny that this is an open and shut case and makes his continuation as a public servant untenable. It can hardly be his case that rectitude is an unworthy Anglo-Saxon ideal or simply a stick to beat Mayawati with.


Tharoor’s predicament should give no joy to those who have yearned for freshness in politics. He had his chance but let human frailties and the air of India cloud his judgement. His unavoidable fall will be celebrated by those who want politics to remain a closed shop. But for letting the side down so badly, he has only his cocksure arrogance to blame. A man who sought ‘new’ politics was brought down because he couldn’t rise above old politics. For the honour of his class he should step down.

Sunday Pioneer, April 18, 2010

17 comments:

No Mist said...

Swapan Da,

no one expressed the disappointment better than you. Tharoor has let down not just himself but the faint hope that politics can be a playing field for 'professionals'. Alas we must now put up with the mulayams et al for some more time.

I personally liked Tharoor's wit and refreshing frankness. Now he just looks like a sleazy operator. What a dirty reality behind such an apparently beautiful facade.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Swapan Dasgupta ,

Most often it is Swapanda's analysis I find more nuanced. Tavleen Singh is another person who comes to my mind I equally admire.

Do click on the following link to read another incisive writeup on Tharoor , cricket etc by TR Jawahar Editor of News Today.

http://www.newstodaynet.com/col.php?section=20&catid=30http://www.newstodaynet.com/col.php?section=20&catid=30

'Unfair affairs'

Anonymous said...

It is not just S. Tharoor , a whole lot of Indians in the world are alerting us to not get carried away by appearances. By their utterly shocking conduct over a period of time.

The holier than thou bjp & Tehelka.

'brahminical vegetarian culture vulture' snooty hemamalini who superciliously crows no one else can play ' Meera ' ( interview with karan johar) was caught travelling in a local train in Tamil Nadu without a ticket but not penalised:(

Recently ululated about kilos of gold , silver & currency "missing" in her cavernous bungalow. Alacritously restored by the police of course:)

Do remember she is the brand ambassador of Baba Ramdev who thunderously pontificates on doing away with corruption blahblah....

That leads to Icchadari Baba , smile please Nithyananda , art of living SSSSS RaviRavishankarshankar , ex bank dacoit Kalki & Mrs Kalki all cloaked in saffron or white seated on pedastal smiling sso idiotically/menacingly & selling defunct blessings !!

Nevertheless , by default Nithyananda provided the most ebullient comic relief for me.

That he effortlessly proved how brain dead several IITians & vainglorious Rajiv Malhotra of Princeton University whose Infinity Foundation has xenophobic hindutvavadis breastbeating 'hinduism-is-in-danger' are :))

Anonymous said...

BEWARE !

This S Tharoor had interviewed the crook , the 'brahminical' fugitive from Justice aol SSSSS Ravishankar , the shameless self pimping Nobel Peace Prize 'almost wresting' faux messiah some time back.

It was not a hardhitting discerning one. Tharoor was approvingly " promoting" sssravishankar. No wonder ravishankar's clout extends to UN.

Thank God Tharoor did not become almighty in UN.It was the IIT pompous idiot liar Rajeev Srinivasan a malayali manoos alias 'shadow warrior' who was breastbeating booohoo a malayali not being "recognised" .

Treacherous toxins.

doubtinggaurav said...

Swapanda,

Congrats. Now your blog comments have achieved the noxious level of rediff message boards. And to think you found us Internet Hindus intolerable.
I think irony just jumped the shark here.

Jay Kumar said...

Anonymous said...

You people keep worshiping the false God. This is what Brahmins want, so that you keep criticizing them where ever and when ever they succeed in any field.

You mentioned most of Hindu Gurus and actress but why you missed your Vatican popes name, Fathers involved in conversion that too with the money given by European Unions to convert this country into Christianity country.

If you say Hindus are corrupt then I can say proudly that we Hindus learn t from Christians only what is corruption and how it need to be carried out.

So your church fathers are no good then our Hindu leaders.

Thanks God you didn't not took name of Noble Prize winners name Venki he too is Tamil-Brahmins.

Kannan said...

frankly.. your post try hard to hide Schadenfreude and jealousy against ST..Pathetic..

Anonymous said...

It is simply intolerably suffocatingly impossible to further re re re expostulate the well elucidated facts with hiiigghhhly qualified Indians with overwhelmingly underwhelming intellect.

TRUTH hurts isn't it ?

No wonder Thayumanavar Swamigal says :-

" Katraarai vida Kalladharae Mael ".

" கற்றாரை விட கல்லாதாரே மேல் "

தாயுமானவர் சுவாமிகள்.

Futile to translate .

Gajendra said...

well....ST is no saint. No smoke without fire. So.....he had to go.

Anonymous said...

Oh please matha mota hindus spare me such vapid jokes:-(

You pompous hindus aaalways assert the entire world owes all knowledge discovery of zero, sushrutha surgery , this & that virtually everything to hindus alone , right ?

So how is it now you claim you learnt from Whites / Christians ??

Too much of pythagoras IIT MBBS & quotations devouring sans actual appetite invariably leads to obesity , that is matha mota.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the comments by a Christian anonymous, I now think that kandhamal riots were justified.

Ambu said...

BIG Mistake - Lalit Modi is the real 'Chor', should be out soon, BUT in the process we have lost a bureaucrat who ACTUALLY had some direction- as far as India is concerned. People may say- Rajiv Gandhi was corrupt- but look at the bigger picture, he did some things and India is reaping the benefits now (IT Industry). WHO cares about a small fee, when MOST of the other politicians ONLY care about milking the cow as long as they are in power and do nothing else.
My point- even if there was some 'smoke' in case of Shashi tharoor (not proven so far), loosing a brilliant politician like him at the expense of an Idiot like Lalit Modi- is a huge mistake. We are letting go of benefits that we could have had 10 years down the line. how many people actually understand the BIG picture?

Internet Hindu said...

Narcissist wants to be UN secy general. UN sees through immaturity. Narcissist gets kicked out. Narcissist needs attention- joins Congress- gets ministerial portfolio- still needs attention- tweets when he should be working- becomes national embarassment. Meanwhile, narcissist meets C-grade social climber from Jammu who delivers both constant attention and below-the-belt 'goods'. Narcissist dumps educated wife for social climber. Narcissist falls out with Antisocial criminal cricket dealer in the process. Antisocial screws Narcissist over coolly, thereby saving the nation further embarassment. Good riddance.

Antisocial (and Nation) 1- Narcissist 0

Now, Antisocial hooks up with alcoholic female CM of Rajasthan- loots local cricket board and accquires land- builds power base. Starts IPL. Alcoholic female CM goes out of power. Antisocial now hooks up with NCP, Congress, BJP anybody who can keep his scam going. Once a criminal, always a criminal. Antisocial has grown too big for his boots. He has to come down. But who will he bring down with him?

Jay Kumar said...

ST Sympathizers,

What Praful Patel has to say about the help done to him by disclosing the bidders details by mail.

I think better would have been that ST himself should have had stake in Kochi team rather than helping his proxy to have stake in it.

His own investment would have garnered more vote to him in future.

Psmith said...

could someone tell me what a PLU is ?

Swapan Dasgupta said...

@Psmith. PLU=People Like Us

Anonymous said...

dear sd
mms is solely responsible.saving swiss money,g family,likes of pawars,lalus,maya,mulayam,buying mps,allowing to corrupt all institutions,etc. this is obvious!from top he has given a loud and clear message that corruption from taxpayers money is a non issue.corruption is the rootcause of major problems of india,making it a fake democracy for major population.people are going in politics to influence sc,cbi and protect illegal money.even a newcomer like tharoor followed the trend.others are also in the same boat.