The Right Turns of Shashi Tharoor
YB Chavan was one of the old guards of Congress who held many ministry portfolios. A seasoned politician and one who was respected across the polity of his times, he was one of the most successful ministers of the Congress till 1977. In 1977 when Janata Party government came to power, he made a critical error of judgement and left the Congress. When the Congress returned to power in 1980, he returned to Congress, chastened and repentant. As was obvious, he could never regain his lost glory.
When a journalist asked him in 1978 as to why he left Congress, he was frank to admit, “I have always been in power, I am not made for the opposition benches”.
[pullquote]The current BJP government and party leadership is smart and is not an easy prey to the incestuous Lutyens circle[/pullquote]
I was reminded of this when I read regular news reports about how Shashi Tharoor has said something or done something which annoyed the Congress High Command.
Tharoor has had a stellar career, first as a UN official, and then as politician of ruling party. He has always been one of the establishment and has boasted close proximity to those in power.
Successful people like him thrive on the protective cocoon of establishment and easy access to corridors of power. They thrive on the old boys network of politico-bureaucrat-diplomat-corporate-international NGO-UNO circuit. However the secret sauce to thriving in this network is the easy access to the ruling government. When the secret sauce goes dry their magic starts waning.
It seems that for obvious reasons, Tharoor is dying to get on the right side of BJP now. Smart man that he is, he has figured out that Congress days are over and it is a long shot for them to come back in power in near future. Unlike the days of NDA-I government, the current BJP government and party leadership is smart and is not an easy prey to the incestuous Lutyens circle of Academia-Media-Bureaucrat-NGO-Politico nexus and which feed on each other and protect their own.
Most members of this club now find their powers getting increasingly limited and Tharoor is feeling the heat or rather the loss of warmth of power.
If he has to survive as somebody in India, he figures he needs to get into BJP fold.
However given his strong liberal image and years of association with the Congress a break is not going to come easily, so he is developing a series of right turns before he eventually turns fully right.
His speech in Oxford, roundly praised by all, is an early warning signal. Tharoor has always been out of India and has thrived on his connections outside India. He has written books and countless columns and given hundreds of speeches. It is not a mere coincidence that a seasoned speaker and writer like him choose to ask Britain for an apology, now. I don’t remember a single instance when he has talked about this (or if he has, it has not been talked about in media as widely as this time) how harmful the British rule was for India and how Britain owed India an apology.
This was his subtle way of striking “nationalist” notes to endear himself to BJP and RSS. Soon after one saw Tharoor widely covered in media for being scolded by Sonia for objecting to parliament disruption.
Then after a few days we hear again about Tharoor writing a letter to Sonia talking about how he has been misunderstood always and ill-treated in the Congress.
It seems like a well-choreographed dance routine to me. The course from here onwards seems predictable. We will see Tharoor thanking and praising Modi on critical policy initiatives, will distance himself from Congress tactics which are unpopular and will start going soft on BJP/RSS.
Then we will see Tharoor sharing dais with RSS or one of its myriad organizations (say VanvasiKalyan Ashram) and Congress protesting about it and Tharoor claiming it is all for the cause.
Then one fine day he will join BJP.
We have seen this happen before. P R Kumar Mangalam, Yashwant Sinha, SS Ahulwalia, Najma Heptullah, NK Singh, Rao Birendra Singh, the list of opposition politicians who have joined BJP after being staunchly against them is long.
So next time Tharoor praises BJP or criticiises Congress, don’t admire him for being objective, just wait for the script to unfold.