Congress’s Popular ‘Pariah’: Where Does the Suave Shashi Tharoor Stand in Presidential Poll Arena?


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With 8.3 million followers on Twitter, winning a popularity contest should not be tough for Shashi Tharoor. But it can be, if you are in the Congress, where he has always been seen as an “outsider”.

Despite winning from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency thrice, the Kerala unit of the Congress considers him a “pariah”. So it came as no surprise that moments after he was spotted at the electoral office of the Congress in Delhi, his home state’s Congress unit said they would not support him for the presidential polls, should he contest.

Not that Tharoor suffers from any illusion of popularity in Kerala, as sources say, he went to Madhusudan Mistry, the election chief to gauge where he could get support from and how many PCC delegates would endorse his candidature.

Congress leader and spokesperson Gourav Vallabh was one of the first to attack Tharoor.

In a tweet, he said, “His only one major contribution to the party in the last 8 years – sent letters to Congress president Sonia Gandhiji when she was hospitalized, this act caused pain to crores of party workers like me. “

The Congress has pulled up Vallabh.

It is a fact that Tharoor may not be able to muster much support. He is not the hardened Hindi belt neta which the Congress needs now as PM Modi surges ahead. Neither has he cultivated many friends at the top, nor do many Congress leaders get his suave brand of politics.

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Despite his wins and charisma and connect with the people and the fact that he remains one of the most recognised Congress faces, not many in the party view him as a friend. He still remains the unlikely Congressman for many Congress leaders.

NOT IN SYNC

There are many reasons for this. One, he is often seen as having a mind of his own and not always in sync with the party line. Just recently, Tharoor wanted to attend a seminar organized by the Kerala state government where the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is the main political opponent. But he had to withdraw after Sonia Gandhi, under pressure from the state unit, told him to back off.

When the Congress was criticising Trinamool Congress’s Mahua Moitra for her comments on Maa Kali, Tharoor defended her. This upset many in the Congress who felt this friendship between the two would harm the Congress.

FRIENDS OUTSIDE PARTY

That has not bothered him. He has built a circle of friends outside the Congress as well and in fact has impressed the PM, who had made him one of the brand ambassadors of the Swachh Bharat mission. Tharoor has tried to experiment with the early style of politics where political affiliation does not interfere or stop you from having friends across the divide.

That Tharoor remains an enigma for many of his party colleagues and there are often snide comments about his lifestyle and politics, is borne out by the fact that at his annual ritual of mango party, there are a handful of congress colleagues and many from the TMC, Janata Dal (United) and other parties.

ALSO READ | Shashi Tharoor is Right About British Racism, But Wrong in Comparing Rishi Sunak With Sonia Gandhi

And with Tharoor being one of the signatories of the G-23 letter, he has burnt many bridges.

However, he responded to few Congress leaders opposing his candidature for the top post with a cryptic tweet and quote. “…If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

In 2006, Tharoor had run for the post of UN secretary general post, but withdrew when he realized that Ban ki Moon was clearly the favourite.

Will Tharoor do the same again or will he stand by his words in his tweet?

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