KOLKATA: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor Saturday mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling him a "hero on a white stallion with an upraised sword in his hand".
Tharoor had waded into a controversy at the Bangalore Literature Festival Sunday last by claiming that an unnamed RSS leader had compared Modi to "a scorpion sitting on a Shivling" and "you cannot remove him with your hand and you cannot hit it with a chappal either".
A criminal defamation complaint had been filed against him in a Delhi court earlier in the day for his "scorpion" remark.
Tharoor again took a swipe at the prime minister, calling him "a hero on a white stallion with an upraised sword in his hand saying I know all the answers".
"Modi is a one-man government and everybody dancing to what he says," he said at an event organised by an industry body, adding India now has the "most centralised PMO" in history.
"Every decision is taken by the PMO (prime minister's office). Every file has to be sent to the PMO for approval," he claimed.
On the next parliamentary election, Tharoor said that there will be both pre-poll and post-poll alliances between the Congress and other opposition parties, but Congress president Rahul Gandhi "may not be" the prime ministerial face.
The coming Lok Sabha election is important in that it will deny the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a second term in power, the Congress MP said.
He said the decision on the prime ministerial face of the Congress alliance would be a collective one and "it may not be him (Gandhi). The Congress has a broader notion of a leader unlike the BJP. We had people like Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and others having tremendous track record".
Gandhi is the unquestionable choice of Congress workers as their leader.
"If free and fair elections are held among the Congress workers, Rahul Gandhi wins hands down," the Congress MP said.
Continuing his criticism of the Modi government, Tharoor said, "We are having a top-down, over-centralised and inefficient government running the country and there is nothing positive in the Indian economy."
"Demonetisation was a bad idea implemented badly and GST was a good idea implemented badly," Tharoor said.
He said that the Indian stock is down across the globe.
"The rupee was heading towards the 'Margdarshak Mandal' (a reference to a BJP panel comprising its elderly leaders)," he quipped and later clarified that the BJP panel had leaders above the age of 75.
He said that communalism, cow vigilantism and mob lynching have been so extreme that India had never seen such "bizarre politics in the past".
"There are damning statistics to prove that," he added.
Tharoor, who was the minister of state for external affairs in the UPA government and is currently chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, said there was "total collapse of relations between India with other countries".
"Nobody knows what is the coherent foreign relations policy with Pakistan, similarly with Nepal and Sri Lanka," he said.
Tharoor regretted that Gandhi is being dubbed a 'Pappu' by some in the social media.
"This is not fair and it is unjustified. Congress workers are really stitched to the Gandhi family and want their leader to be from there," he said.
Regarding the Sabarimala temple controversy, Tharoor said, "These issues are being whipped up to distract attention from the real problems like oil price rise, Rafale deal, etc."
Speaking at another programme, he alleged that the trend of erecting statues and raising the issue of Ram temple in Ayodhya were attempts to distract the masses from "failures" of the BJP government at the Centre.
He said the trend of erecting statues reminded him of the Roman empire when people where distracted from the oppression they faced through 'bread and circuses' (distribution of free food and staging of huge spectacles).
"The issues of Statue of Unity, Ram temple, Ram statue at Ayodhya are distractions. I would urge the public of India to move away from these distractions and focus on the realities and lives of the Indians," the Congress MP said.
"The reality is the Indian Aam Aadmi (common man) has been suffering for the last four and half years. This suits the agenda of the government that has failed to perform," he said.
Tharoor's comment comes in the backdrop of plans to install a statue of Lord Ram on the banks of the Sarayu river in Ayodhya.
Joining the chorus for the construction of Ram temple in the Uttar Pradesh pilgrim town of Ayodhya, Union minister Vijay Goel had Friday said it should be done at the earliest through any means -- constitutional, legislative, judicial or community dialogue.
The VHP and the RSS have demanded an ordinance to acquire land for constructing the temple in Ayodhya.