Congress today distanced itself from party spokesperson Shashi Tharoor's effusive praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi but he made it clear he was not his fan.
"The views expressed by Shashi Tharoor about Modi and the government are his personal views. As a party, it is too early for us to express these views. It is too early to comment on the functioning of the government," party spokesperson Shobha Oza told reporters.
Her comments came in response to a barrage of questions a day after Tharoor's praise appeared in a US news website in which he had among other things remarked that Modi was looking to turn himself from a "hate figure into an avatar of modernity and progress".
Oza steered clear of questions as to what could be the trigger for Tharoor, an articulate spokesperson, to praise Modi, who is seen by many in the party as the "most polarising politician" in the independent India.
She also parried questions on whether any action could be taken against Tharoor.
On his part, Tharoor told NDTV that he cannot be called a fan of Modi. "No, afraid you can't. I have been intrigued by the fact that the paraphrases of my piece I have seen in the Indian media looks like people don't actually read every word and every nuance," he said when asked if he could be called a 'Modi fan' now after his piece in the website.
Tharoor said his piece very clearly explains that for a dozen years the Congress party had good reasons to criticise him very severely for the 2002 riots.
But the way he has conducted himself after the election and spoken from the moment of his victory he "has been amazingly gracious and accommodative" of even those who had not voted for him.
Tharoor was all praise for the language and tone used by Modi and so he thought it would be churlish not to acknowledge it.
"We should acknowledge that this may the evolution of Modi 2.0 but if Modi 1.0 reemerges, then we will robustly oppose him," he said.
Asked if the Congress party would go with his views, Tharoor said he has not been fired as party spokesperson. He said the media creates controversies for TRP ratings "but there is actually a coherence and synergy at work" when various spokespersons speak.
When asked whether her views being expressed today are personal or those of the party, Oza, who is also the Mahila Congress chief insisted "whatever views I have expressed are my party's views."
Noting that while it is true that Congress will work as a constructive opposition and as a party it wants the government to function well, she wondered "I would like to know what has changed. I have given you an example. Nothing has changed."
She was referring to her attack on the Prime Minister over his pre-election pitch on women security and the recurring incidents of persecution of women including rapes and gang rapes in various parts of the country.
When told that by expressing these views, she could be accused of being "churlish", a term Tharoor had used, Oza was dismissive saying "that is his views."
"It will be too hasty to comment now on the functioning of the government. We are waiting for Narendra Modi to prove, to put in practice whatever he has said," Oza said.
In surprise praise for Modi, Tharoor had yesterday said from the AICC podium that the opposition would be "churlish" in ignoring the voices of inclusive outreach of the new Prime Minister.
He had also held that the "accommodative and inclusive language should be welcomed and it would be churlish to ignore that".
Tharoor said he has not heard intolerant language nor the language used in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections after Modi was sworn-in as the Prime Minister. He described the Prime Minster as "Modi 2.0" which he said has replaced "Modi 1.0".
In the article under the heading "How Narendra Modi may have evolved into Modi 2.0", Tharoor had emphasised that "to almost everyone's surprise. Modi and the BJP have eschewed the hubris and triumphalism they might have been assumed to have earned with their sweeping victory".
A party leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that some people never change hinting that Tharoor exceeded the brief in making those remarks.
Asked whether Tharoor will continue as spokesperson, the leader said that it will be clear in the days to come.
To a question whether it was just a case of exceeding the brief or any motive behind making the remarks, the leader said, "I am yet to think about that."
While the party disagrees with what Tharoor said at the briefing, the views expressed in the article by Tharoor surprised it all the more, a leader said.