Going by the number of best-selling books he has authored or the insightful columns that he has written for Indian and foreign media, it is difficult to say if Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor is more a scholar than anything else. His long stint at the UN where he worked for 28 years and rose to the rank of Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information endowed him with nuances of international diplomacy. Before he contested the Lok Sabha election from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala in 2009 and became minister of state for external affairs and human resources development, the Indian establishment from top political leaders to cynical editors thought that he was a rare talent that India must harness to its benefit. Despite his exposure to international diplomacy, Tharoor cared little about political correctness ever since he joined Indian politics. When the Manmohan Singh government asked his ministers to adopt austerity measures, Tharoor kicked up a controversy by saying on Twitter that he is ready to travel in the cattle class, referring to the economy class in flight. Soon, he was made to apologise for his comments. But, he could never give up his tendency to raise controversy by his acts and words. Not only did he lobby hard for a Kerala team in the IPL, he got an equity deal for Sunanda Pushkar, with whom he was in a relationship that time. This led to a twitter war between IPL chairman Lalit Modi and Tharoor. Such an unorthodox approach to his job as a Union Minister was uncommon and few of his colleagues approved of it.
The latest controversy to embroil him is stating that if BJP comes back to power in 2019, India will become a Hindu Pakistan. This may not look out of place considering he is a widely read columnists and made the comment in a seminar. But more than a columnist and writer, he is a prominent Congress leader today, and any comment that he makes will invite a reciprocal response from other parties. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Thursday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should check if Congress leader Shashi Tharoor needs "medical help." "The Prime Minister should take pity on Mr. Tharoor, find out whether he needs medical help, and send him to a mental hospital if needed," he told ANI. "I don't know if he overdosed on something. His comments clearly exhibit frustration. What is the definition of Hindu Pakistan? What does he mean? Is he against Pakistan? He appeases Pakistanis so much and asks Pakistan Prime Minister to help remove Prime Minister Modi from power. He has also got Pakistani girlfriends. They are ISI people," he added. "They (Congress) spoke about Hindu terror earlier, but that turned out to be a fiasco. The Congress leadership should disown it [Tharoor's comments], otherwise it'll mean they are in a state of frustration," he explained. Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore also took a dig at Tharoor for his 'Hindu Pakistan' remark on Thursday. "This is pure hallucination by Shashi Tharoor, I think this is withdrawal symptoms of the fact that neither they are in power nor do they see power coming to them again. It's Congress that has infringed our Constitution and freedom of our citizens," Rathore was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. Reacting to his comments, his own party has asked him to be more careful in choosing his words. Senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said, "India's values and fundamentals are an unequivocal guarantee of our civilisational role and set us apart from the divisive idea of Pakistan. All Congress leaders must realise this historic responsibility bestowed upon us while choosing words and phraseology to reject BJP's hatred."
As seen in the past, unguarded comments like 'neech admai' and 'maut ka saudagar' made by Congress leaders have been used by BJP leaders giving an altogether new twist and meaning to the phrases. In case of the 'Hindu Pakistan' comment by Tharoor, BJP is likely to use Tharoor's apprehensions as to his opposition to Hindu Rashtra. Tharoor's comments will be interpreted and explained to the people that he is against the rise of the ideology of Hindutva. Few would be told that Tharoor himself is a vegetarian and he proclaims to be a believer and a practising Hindu who performs all kinds of worship of Hindu deities. Those who know would profess that everything is fair in the game of politics; Tharoor being misunderstood and misinterpreted is part of the game. So, he is rightly cautioned by his party to choose his words carefully.