Millennium Post

Shashi Tharoor in big trouble

The controversy surrounding the tragic death of his wife has put a question mark over the candidature of Union Minister Shashi Tharoor for the Lok Sabha election.

A high-profile leader with a huge twitter following, Tharoor is the sitting Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram. Shashi’s wife, Sunanda Pushkar, was found dead in a five-star hotel in the national Capital on Friday.

Ever since the doctors who conducted a post-mortem on Sunanda opined that hers was an unnatural sudden death, a section of the Congress in the state against the controversy-prone Tharoor has been active. Convener of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) P P Thankachan is on record that if anything adverse is found against him in the final post-mortem report, or if a case is registered against Tharoor, he would be denied Congress ticket to contest the Lok Sabha election. A few other leaders in the Congress, among them George Mercier, have also said that Tharoor should have been more vigilant and careful in handling his personal problems.

It may be mentioned that a section within the Congress in the state had never reconciled itself to the fielding of Tharoor from the state capital in the last LS elections. They had vehemently opposed his candidature then, too. It was only after the Congress High Command insisted on Shashi being fielded from Thiruvananthapuram that this section rallied behind him, albeit reluctantly. The political situation has, however, undergone a sea-change since then. Shashi, who found himself enmeshed in a slew of controversies in the interregnum, no longer enjoys the High Command’s confidence, it seems. This being the position, there is every possibility of Tharoor being replaced by another more acceptable and non-controversial Congress candidate from Thiruvananthapuram in the upcoming LS elections, whatever is the final post-mortem report.

In the crucial electoral battle, each seat is important, and the Congress wants to ensure a victory of its candidate from the state capital. There are a few reasons why the Congress is keen on winning the seat. First and foremost, Thiruvananthapuram is one of the few seats which the party is hopeful of winning next time. It has been a stronghold of the Congress, the caste profile of the constituency and the communal equations there being what it is. The unexpected turn of events has, conversely, brightened the prospects of the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) wresting the seat from the UDF. The seat belongs to the CPI, which has been quick to demand an enquiry into the death of Sunanda Pushkar. CPI state secretary Pannian Ravindran has said that although the party shared the grief of the Tharoor family, it was important to know the truth as Shashi was a public servant. Hence their demand for a comprehensive inquiry into the issue.

There is no denying the worry in the Congress camp in the wake of the controversy surrounding Sunanda’s death. Any adverse report against Tharoor, the Congress leaders admit, could ruin the party’s prospects not only in Thiruvananthapuram, but also in other constituencies. As it is, the image of the Congress in the state and the UDF led by it is in tatters following the solar scam, and the surge in the activities of mafias in the state during the reign of the UDF. And a setback in the form of a report against Tharoor could prove utterly disastrous for the party, the Congress leaders admit in private. State CPI(M) leaders have also not scrupled at seeking a comprehensive inquiry into the matter.

Deputy leader of the CPI(M) in the State Assembly, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has demanded an independent inquiry which should probe also the alleged links of Tharoor with a Pakistani journalist. State CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said that Tharoor was isolated in the party. The Prime Minister condoled the death very late, he said, adding that Congress leaders who were in Delhi to attend the AICC session did not call on Tharoor on Friday.

Public perception is that Sunanda died because of the mental pressure and distress caused by Tharoor’s alleged affair with the Pak journalist Mehr Tarar. The tweet war saw Sunanda accusing Mehr of being an ISI agent who was stalking her husband – a charge denied by Mehr who had threatened to sue Sunanda.

Whatever the denouement, the Congress in Kerala is extremely concerned over the developments. How the party controls the damage caused by the unfortunate death of Tharoor’s wife remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: it won’t be easy for the Congress Party
this time.

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