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Verbose, Articulate and a bit Naïve

April 17, 2010

His first published writing was as a child of six. He earned two Doctorates simultaneously from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University at the ripe ‘old’ age of 22. His books have all been bestsellers and one of them has gone to more than 30 reprints and the sales are as good as ever. He served at the UN for more than two decades and was a strong contender for the top post and in a BBC poll was an outright winner as the next Secretary General till the US veto saw him opting out and Ban Ki-moon took the honors. He has been part of many an institution and has had an illustrious career. He first married a Bengali who was his childhood sweetheart and then a Canadian who was his colleague at the UN. The man is a maverick and erudite (which is a bit unusual). He jumped into politics and got a ticket from Thiruvananthapuram. Expectedly won the seat and found himself as the minister of state for foreign affairs under S.M. Krishna. Remarkably, this is not his first foray into politics. He was the president of the student’s union while in Delhi and the slogan was ‘Shashi Tharoor – jeetega zaroor’ (loosely translated – Shashi Tharoor – win he will!!). And win he did.

Since getting a ministerial berth this tech savvy diplomat turned politicians has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. From the time when he Tweeted Economy air travel as ‘cattle class’ which was taken literally by many and he was lampooned for his ‘arrogance’, to the time he was found to be living in a five star hotel for more than a month at a time of a declared government drive for austerity, the man has never been away from headlines. He is verbose, articulate and does not believe in mincing words. Shashi Tharoor, the boyish middle aged diplomat-turned politician does not believe in lying low. He relishes publicity. He fails to understand that in politics, a bit of a low profile can do a person’s chances wonders. One can say that Shashi Tharoor is to politics what Sreesanth is to cricket. Pepped up, volatile, hard competitors with a passion that is unmatched. Remarkably, both are Malyalees. While S. Sreesanth can speak his mother tongue fluently, the same is not true for Shashi Tharoor.

Shashi Tharoor has another passion – cricket. He has written a book on the game. The recent controversy about his role in the IPL auctions where a consortium of which Rendezvous Sports was a part has seen the proverbial shit hit the fan. It appears that his female friend Sunanda Pushkar, a Kashmiri lady who owns a spa in Dubai has been allotted sweat equity in the franchisee amounting to Rs 75 crores. IPL auctions are big money and the Kochi bid was no different. Shashi Tharoor is being touted as the person behind Ms Pushkar and the opposition is baying for his blood. If one tracks Mr. Tharoor’s career, it would be difficult to believe that a man with a background as that of Shashi Tharoor could learn to wheel and deal the way he is alleged to have done in such a short time in politics. The man is an academic who has turned to politics. He says that he was interested in the Kochi bid as he wanted to bring cricket to Kerela, where football is the most popular sport. He has also said that just because Ms. Pushkar is a woman does not mean she is incapable of marketing the franchisee for which she was given sweat equity in the first place. He has also said that he will not benefit at all financially from the Kochi franchise. He has further said that his offices were not used for pulling the bid one way or the other. He said that his role was that of a mentor, as the bid was for an IPL franchise for his home state. Having said that the two charges that do need a look into are that the stake holders of the Rendezvous consortium are still not clear and also that Mr. Tharoor was keen on taking the franchise to Abu Dhabi.

Shashi Tharoor and Sonia Gandhi

If there is an anomaly in the holding of the Kochi consortium then it is also true that a lot of real players in these IPL franchisees are people who are playing the bids from behind the scene. There are allegations that the Rajasthan Royals is actually owned by son of Rupert Murdoch and that Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra are just a front. There are others who have said that some of Lalit Modi’s, (the IPL commissioner) relatives are holding major stakes in Kings XI Punjab. Charges and counter charges are flying around. The fact that has come out is that IPL is much bigger than what we think and that there are some very big players who are managing things from behind the scene. I have a feeling that the vibrant, verbose Shashi Tharoor may have inadvertently unraveled muck and gore that is the IPL and now the man is in the eye of the storm. He is going through a divorce from his Canadian wife and while it is reported that he might marry Sunanda Pushkar, he has distanced himself from the lady. The ebullient Mr. Tharoor has now claimed that the Dawood Ibrahim group is after him and that his life is in danger. Cops from Delhi police visited his residence to check things out for themselves. This latest assertion from Mr. Tharoor is so Amar Singhish that one cannot help but chuckle at the man and his maneuvers.

I have a feeling that Shashi Tharoor is above board and is not lying. He might still lose his job. However, the man has a benefactor that is keeping him safe. The Congressmen have rallied around Tharoor, though reluctantly. A first time MP getting a minister of state berth in the important foreign affairs ministry is hard for many a seasoned politicians to digest. The knives are out. But the man survives. The reason is – well, if you have still not guessed it – Sonia Gandhi. I have a feeling that Sonia Gandhi knows Tharoor’s intellectual capabilities and is favorably disposed towards the man. Tharoor had a one-on-one meeting with Sonia which lasted for more than twenty minutes. Tharoor was not allowed to speak in the parliament and make his statement on the issue. It is being said that the matter will be taken up once the prime minister comes back from Washington and Brazil. Congress and Sonia Gandhi are playing for time. They want this controversy to settle down before shelving the whole thing. The opposition is also enmeshed in the sleaze that is the IPL. Tharoor is the fall guy who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. The raids at the IPL offices and Lalit Modi in particular make it clear that daggers are drawn and that Tharoor will survive unscathed. The way Sharad Pawar has defended Lalti Modi also shows that things are far from normal between the Congress and the NCP. Sonia Gandhi will not let Tharoor be the fall guy. She likes the man, maybe even smitten by him and this whole controversy may well be to get Ms. Pushkar where she belongs – in the dustbin.  The old slogan still holds – Shashi Tharoor – jeetega zaroor!!!

Addendum: The Prime Minister has some idea as to which way the wind is blowing. On board the aircraft from Brazil to India he remarked that ‘politics has its ups and downs’, when asked about Shashi Tharoor. Perhaps he understands the mind of Sonia Gandhi better than many. IANS reported his statement as follows:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday chose to tread carefully on the Indian Premier League (IPL) row involving Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor.

‘Politics has its ups and downs,’ is all that the prime minister said on board his special aircraft when asked about his take on Tharoor’s alleged links with the Kochi IPL franchise.

Tharoor had Friday clarified that he had not misused his official position and his ‘mentoring’ the Kerala consortium of the Kochi IPL franchise was within the ‘bounds of appropriate conduct’ as an MP from Thiruvananthapuram.

Voices are coming from the Kerela Congress where Panchayat polls are due, that Shashi Tharoor does not need to resign. The other news in the grapevine is that the party is saying that if Sunanda Pushkar forfeits her stake in the Kochi IPL team then Shashi Tharoor can continue. It is as clear as daylight. I hope Mr. Tharoor understands the deal.

Update 19.04.2010: Shashi Tharoor resigns: Dr. Shashi Tharoor has resigned after meeting the prime minister twice yesterday. There was a Congress Working Committee meeting in the forenoon and by evening it was clear that Tharoor would have to go. In the meantime, Sunanda Pushkar forfeited her sweat equity in Rendezvous Sports and her lawyer made the announcement. But it was too little too late.

The prolonged confabulations regarding Mr. Tharoor made it clear that the Congress top brass was finding it difficult to make up its mind. They were in a quandary. A shrill media campaign, with little substance prevailed. The man has been pilloried and that should warm the cockles of the heart of his innumerable detractors. Small men win. Shashi Tharoor could not adjust to the sycophantic culture of Indian politics – which the Congress Party is known for.

If we look at the facts – what has Tharoor really done that he has been made to resign? Is there any proof of the man getting any pecuniary benefits directly or indirectly? Sunanda Pushkar’s stake in the IPL could well have been a front for someone else. To presume that Tharoor and Pushkar are so close that they share finances may not be true. Lots of couples (including married ones) do not share finances. Pushkar found that legally the franchise could not have given her sweat equity as the company was constituted only in March of this year. Only after an year could Rendezvous Sports have offered her sweat equity. So in effect she had to forfeit her stake anyway.  Does pursuing the case of Kochi franchise with Lalit Modi qualify for a resignation? On the face of it, the man has done nothing wrong. The media barrage was such that they bulldozed the government into asking for Tharoor’s resignation. It was said in the passing that the Intelligence Bureau has some incriminating material against Tharoor and that made sure he quitted his post. If there is any such incriminating evidence against the man, then it should be made public.

A lone voice in Farooq Abdullah called for giving the benefit of the doubt to Shashi Tharoor. Rest were baying for the man’s blood. The protracted confabulations could be that the man was being given choices. He made his choice. He is way too honest. Accusing Shashi Tharoor of graft when nothing can be substantiated and when people of all hues are walking the corridors of power, speaks volumes of the stupid decision the CWC came to. The man is honest not only in public life but also in his personal life. I guess he was given a choice and he chose love (howsoever ephemeral it may be). The man was shown the door. My fear is that he may resign as an MP too, if he has been made to resign for graft.

It is being reported that the Super boss Rahul Gandhi finally decided that the ‘party’s image’ was being tarnished and with the parliament in session, it would be embarrassing for the party to defend Tharoor. Sonia Gandhi and the CWC had no choice but to fall in line. A reluctant Sonia agreed to the final decision. The government has lost a talent who could have done a lot for the country in international fora.

Update 20.04.2010: Shashi Tharoor made his statement in the Lok Sabha after his resignation. The man called for an enquiry into the whole matter. He also quoted a patriotic couplet from a Malayallee author. The man was clearly overwhelmed as he read those lines.

It is clear that while Mr. Tharoor may have been made to resign, he has not been forsaken by the party. The Congress party has made a tactical retreat to thwart any possible advantage to the opposition. Tharoor saga is yet to unfold in its entirety. An enquiry will be instituted and Tharoor will be found to be clean, as I am sure he is. His detractors are going to have it rough now. Lalit Modi as IPL commissioner may be counting his days. The party will use all its might (and they are more than handy, I can assure you) to get to the bottom of this. Pawar has already distanced himself from Modi. Tharoor should be back where he belongs, right in the middle of the things. The Congress may also help Tharoor understand the kind of company he has been keeping of late. Mr. Tharoor, you are in for some surprises.

A small milestone – a little retrospect

The above article is the 100th post on this blog. This is a small milestone that has made me look back. From the time I started this blog in May 2009 to April of 2010, has been a journey that has been interesting and a bit arduous. Writing is tedious but once hung up one cannot but reach out to the computer and start punching. Writing is a release and once something gets into ones being one remains edgy till it comes out. I do not have any false sense of grandeur, as far as this blog and my writings are concerned. What I can say is that I have enjoyed myself and the effort has been worth it.

I must thank WordPress for their impeccable services and their constant drive to make this platform more user-friendly. They have been magnificent all along. Thanks a lot – WordPress.

Thanks also to the readers who have made this worthwhile. And thanks to those who found time to respond to my articles with their comments.

Thanks to those who picked up articles from my blog. Others like Times-CNN, Times Mirror(India), Blackwaterwatch, CNN and many others who linked to my blog, a heartfelt thanks.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. arun permalink
    April 21, 2010 5:59 pm

    i have enjoyed reading your blog from time to time. Congrats for the “Small milestone”!!

    However, as for the Tharoor saga, you seem to be smitten by the man more than Sonia Gandhi!! as you have humorously mentioned. You have passed judgement without a trial. just because Tharoor is an intellectual, he cannot be over board. All i can say is that he is surely new to the murky ways of Politics, and was caught easily. Of course there are bigger fish in Indian politics, but they are too smart to be so easily caught. For Shashi Tharoor I would like to say – what he has done is — ” hum to doobenge sanam, tumko bhi le doobenge!!! many more heads will surely roll.

    • sharma24 permalink*
      April 21, 2010 6:36 pm

      Thanks! I will not deny that I have a bias for the man because he is so different from others in the Parliament. Just look around and you will see what I mean. But if I do have a bias towards the man it is a ‘positive bias’. We do need talents like Tharoor in politics. As for the doobenge part, I guess it is the Congress Party that is going after his detractors and not Tharoor himself.

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