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Not One Of Their ‘Own’? Shashi Tharoor’s Love-Hate Relationship With Congress  

After Shashi Tharoor lost the Congress presidential election by huge margin, he claimed to be not ‘upset’. However, his other comments tell us a different story.  

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Shashi Tharoor
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As the initial hullabaloo over the Congress presidential election gets over, Shashi Tharoor, the candidate who lost to Mallikarjun Kharge by a huge margin, said that he is not upset over the results. However, this statement of the Thiruvananthapuram MP doesn’t go with his other comments over the time.  

After the results were out, Tharoor reportedly spoke to party president Sonia Gandhi and said, “it was clear from the beginning that the establishment of the party will rally behind my opponent.”  

Interestingly, revealing more about the words he had with Gandhi, he said, “I spoke to Sonia Gandhi and she said that it's not surprising that most of the party members would back one of their own.,” reported India Today. 

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The statement of Sonia Gandhi regarding ‘one of their own’ referring to Kharge though makes it clear how Tharoor was not considered as ‘their own’, what the Thiruvananthapuram MP has been going through amidst this is anybody’s guess. 

His addition to these comments make the state of his mind further clear- “No, I am not disappointed because I think it was very clear from the earliest moments of the campaign that the establishment, minus the rare case of a Mohsina Kidwai or a Saifuddin Soz or a few other fellow MPs, was going to rally behind him (Kharge) and that inevitably happened and I have no complaints about that.”  

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None of ‘their own’, Tharoor has been struggling with the party high command since he was elected as an MP in 2009. A throwback to his relationship with the Congress party gives testimony to his love-hate relationship with the party.  

Once An Outsider Always An Outsider 

Since joining the Congress and winning the MP seat from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala in 2009, Shashi Tharoor has been struggling with the ‘body politic’ of Indian politics. Known as an intellectual politician, Tharoor was the last person to follow the ‘party line’ without dissent.  

As per reports, while appointing the first time MP as union Minister. the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh told him to be cautious of the jealous colleagues within the party.  

However, for the first time the debate over Tharoor’s loyalty bubbled to the surface after 2014 general elections when Tharoor said that he could see Modi 2.0 coming for his inclusive and reconciliatory statements. He took it further when he appreciated the Swachh Bharat mission and wanted to be a brand ambassador for the mission.  

Using the opportunity, Prime Minister Modi also tagged Tharoor among the nine prominent Indians whom he called for to promote and propagate the Swachh Bharat Mission. In this context, when the Kerala Congress leaders started saying that ‘he writes love letters’ to Modi, Tharoor in an interview with NDTV said that he has been considered as a ‘foreign object’ in the body politic.  

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“Perhaps there's a difficulty in digesting who I am and how I conduct myself,” Tharoor added during the interview. The Kerala MP nevertheless repeated his point and in reference to Modi said, “Whenever he says or does the right thing, which would add credibility to our criticisms whenever he errs.”  

The tension over Tharoor’s support for Modi’s initiatives resulted in his removal from the position of national spokesperson of the party.  

However, to tame Tharoor was a bit difficult. Supporting the granting of 50 years’ lease of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to the Adani’s brought him further the ire of the high command.  

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‘Guest Artist’ To ‘Global Citizen’- Tharoor, the quintessential outsider  

When all of these were going on, came the historic letter to party president Sonia Gandhi proposing changes within the party. This letter signed by 23 senior leaders of the Congress had Tharoor’s signature.  

The criticism from Kerala Congress against Tharoor was overwhelming. Rallying behind the high command, Kerala MP K Muraleedharan said that the national level leaders would decide Tharoor’s fate. The author of ‘Why am I a Hindu’ was mockingly called a ‘global citizen’ in contrast to the ‘ordinary citizens’ of Congress.  

Not only that another Kerala MP from Mavelikkara, Kodikunnil Suresh called him a “guest artist” who couldn’t learn the ‘political maturity’ over the years. Echoing Muraleedharan’s stand he added, “he (Tharoor) has not learned to conduct party or parliamentary activities within the party framework. That’s why he jumps into action before thinking…he may be a global citizen. He may be an intelligent and wise man. But it’s clear from each of his actions that he’s politically immature….as an MP of the Congress, he must show deference to the party. It’s not right for him to take a different stand thinking he’s a global citizen.”  

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No 'Silverline' for Tharoor  

While the whole Kerala Congress is united to topple the P Vijayan Government in the coming elections for he bucked the conventions and retained power for a second term, Tharoor is not ready to walk along.  

As 17 United Democratic Front MPs submitted their opposition to Vijayan’s ambitious Silverline project, Tharoor denied toeing the line. Noting that he cannot criticise something without studying it in details, he excused himself.  

It brought him again to the notice of Kerala state congress president K Sudhakaran who criticised Tharoor saying: “If you are a party MP you have to follow the party line. Otherwise, you can leave the party, we have told him in clear terms.”  

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So, when Tharoor decided to fight for the Congress presidential elections, it was a dare he took. The initial attacks on him by the Congress leader Gourav Vallabh that the only contribution of Tharoor was to write letter to Sonia Gandhi made his fate clear. Truly, it was a contest that Tharoor lost far before he started playing the game- perhaps because he is ‘not their own’.  

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