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Scolded by Sonia Gandhi, praised by Narendra Modi, Shashi Tharoor keeps politicos guessing

New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani: Exchange of encomiums between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the erudite scholarly face of the Congress, Shashi Tharoor, amidst a fierce political battle and parliament logjam, has fired speculations that diplomat-turned-MP from southernmost state of Kerala is moving closer towards the BJP. Just a day ago, he was scolded by Congress president Sonia Gandhi after his views against party’s stalling tactics in Parliament appeared in the media. “Mrs Gandhi, who generally does not get angry, literally blasted Tharoor,” sources said. She even didn’t buy Tharoor’s argument that he was not behind the leak. “You always do this, it’s become a habit with you,” an angry Sonia said.

On Thursday, Prime Minister took the opportunity to praise Tharoor for his skills in public speaking, and his recent speech at the Oxford debate. “What he (Tharoor) spoke there reflected the sentiments of the citizens of India,” Modi said, inaugurating a workshop on the Speaker’s Research Initiative to train MPs on various subjects of global importance. Congress leader and leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad downplayed the PM’s praise, saying there was no personal fight with the BJP. “How does that matter? PM praised us in J&K too. We don’t have a personal fight with the PM. If a BJP leader does good work tomorrow we too will be praising them,” he said.

Author of 15 bestselling works of fiction and non-fiction, Tharoor is also amongst a few MPs, out of more than 800, seen utilising the rich Parliament library, taking notes and preparing speeches, rather engaging in gossiping in Central Hall of Parliament at leisure hours. This was exactly Modi had advised his MPs to follow, when he took over as the Prime Minister.

Though, in the parliament corridors it is common that politicians across divide meet and discuss strategies away from the prying eyes of media, reports said Mrs Gandhi’s anger had stemmed more as she had spotted Tharoor accosted by finance minister Arun Jaitley at a cafeteria near Central Hall. To add to Congress’ discomfort, words of praise for Tharoor also came from Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who also applauded his speech at the Oxford University. “You (Tharoor) had spoken from your heart,” she said.

He had argued why Britain owes reparations for its exploitation of the subcontinent. “It’s a bit rich to oppress, enslave, kill, torture, maim people for 200 years and then celebrate the fact that they are democratic at the end of it. We were denied democracy, so we had to snatch it, seize it from you,” he said. Using humour to its hilt, he said, “The sun couldn’t set on the British empire, because even god couldn’t trust the English in the dark.” Talking about railways in India, a development often described a ‘gift by the British’, Tharoor said, “Roads and railways were built to serve British interests in India.”

Tharoor, also a former assistant secretary general of United Nations, later acknowledged Modi’s praise saying he (Modi) spoke with a large heart. “I am grateful. He (Modi) was kind enough. He spoke with a large heart,” he said. When his attention was drawn to the fact that he was the only MP from Congress to attend the programme, Tharoor said he had not noticed it. He said he attended the programme as he had got the invitation from the host, the Speaker.

Tharoor had found himself in problems over his praise of Modi on a few occasions earlier too. He had accepted the PM’s invitation to join the ‘Clean India’ campaign and had recently praised Modi’s campaign on yoga and had also remarked that the PM leaves a positive impact on the countries he visits though he follows the former UPA government’s policies.

Tharoor, who was dropped from the panel of Congress spokespersons some time back for praising Modi, had often rubbed his party the wrong way with his praise of Modi. In his home state, Congress leaders, who are baying for his blood believe the MP was moving closer to the BJP. But Tharoor vehemently denied it. His detractors also say, he was moving the BJP to avoid investigations into his wife Sunanda Pushkar’s mysterious death. The Kerala MP had earlier described the US President Barack Obama’s article on Modi a remarkable gesture, unlike his party leaders. He had also called Modi as a ‘master communicator’.

Encomiums apart, political analysts here dismiss any chance of Tharoor moving to the BJP, keeping in view the nature of Kerala politics, where despite an organised and active RSS network, the BJP has been a cipher in electoral politics.

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