'The Paradoxical Prime Minister' is hard to miss in any bookstore. Shashi Tharoor’s latest book stands out for many reasons – the biggest being the eye-catching cover image of prime minister Narendra Modi standing next to his wax statue. So when Tharoor was in the city for the inauguration of an art exhibition, followed by a question-and-answer session, the first question to be brought up was the choice behind his book cover.
“It’s a picture we got from Getty Images. It was chosen to show the difference between image and reality, and between promises made versus fulfilled,” said Tharoor.
The book stitches together a portrait of the prime minister and studies the effect he has had on the country. So far, Tharoor hasn’t given the PM a copy yet, and doesn’t plan to either. “The book is clearly a criticism. I cannot hand him a copy without it looking like an insult,” he said, adding that they share a relationship of civility. “In public, we’ve both made comments about each other. But in private, we’re mutually respectful,” he said.
Another question was directed at the nature of his criticism of BJP, and how it might be similar to criticism other governments have received in the past. Tharoor, however, said, “The bulk of charges laid are unique to Modi’s government. I am fairly blameless since I have written books critical of other governments, including Congress.” He then went on to call demonetisation the “single most disastrous economic decision.” He further added, “It was executed in an inexcusable manner and no other government has gone through such a preposterous exercise of marginalising our population.”
The recent naming spree, too, Tharoor said, is specific to the current government. “Here, the systematic decision of only changing Muslim names to Hindu ones sends an unfortunate signal that Muslims have no stake in society, since we get to the decide and call the shots. That’s a terrible message to send.”
When asked about his predictions for the verdict of the assembly elections, Tharoor firmly declares that he isn’t a soothsayer. He further added that his party is “quietly confident” about the expected results: “From everything I’ve picked up, including from my party colleagues who have been in those states, we are quietly confident that we will come out on December 11 as a strong and viable alternative to the BJP.”