NEW DELHI: The Congress on Monday sacked Shashi Tharoor as its spokesperson for praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“I am in politics to serve the people of India, and my constituency, Thiruvananthapuram, through my service to the Congress party. This I have always done with utmost sincerity and commitment and I will continue to do so,” Tharoor said, in a signed statement. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief V M Sudheeran had alleged that there were repeated instances of Tharoor being seen as appreciative of Modi. “He has wounded the party spirit. We have to ensure that such remarks are not repeated,” he said.
Tharoor had rather upset his party by tweeting that he was “honoured” to be featured among nine prominent Indians tagged by the PM when he launched his ‘Clean India’ campaign on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.
This is not the first time that Tharoor’s tweets has got him into trouble.
The Clean India campaign issue may have triggered the disciplinary action, but what seems to have riled Congress leaders more was Tharoor’s blog post in which he compared Modi with Jawaharlal Nehru. “This was a bit too much to digest,” an old Congress hand from Kerala said.
When murmurs of discontent were rising, Tharoor had said that his “criticism for Modi (much) outweighed the praise” and that he was being targeted by the Kerala lobby of the party for being an “outsider”. But it did cut much ice.
Already, fresh reports on the mysterious death of Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar in a plush Delhi hotel has been causing the party much embarrassment, “his Modi-nama gave the party an opportunity to distance itself from the trouble-prone MP”, a Congress insider said.
However, the party’s voce of the day Shobha Oza vehemently denied that axing Tharoor from the spokesperson’s job had anything to do with the controversy over Sunanda’s death which is under renewed probe.
She pointed out that Tharoor would continue to chair the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, to which the Congress had nominated him. She added: “But a spokesperson’s views and statements are seen to be the official party line, so he had to be removed.” Other Congress leaders were of the view that the “action should have been taken earlier — this is not the first time he’s praised Modi or non-Congress leaders.”