By Sushil Kutty
The Bharatiya Janata Party losing the central government is not impossible, says Shashi Tharoor, the Congress party’s Thiruvananthapuram MP. Of late, ever since Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra hit the blacktop running, such statements are common. But Tharoor’s prediction could be double-edged. The suave Congress leader might be deflecting after facing flak for being overly ambitious and talk attributed to him that he wouldn’t mind being Kerala Chief Minister.
Why not, Tharoor is as ambitious as any other Congress leader. But perhaps in his hurry, Tharoor knocked down a busy beehive, disturbing some very powerful Congress Malayalees, such as AICC general-secretary KC Venugopal, whose equation with Sonia Gandhi and chemistry with Rahul Gandhi is the stuff of Einstein’s relativity.
Tharoor has ruffled a few highly sensitive feathers. The Kerala state Congress leaders do not like his ebullience. They especially don’t fancy his friendship with certain Muslim League leaders. He is pally with the Catholic Church. And cozy with the Nair Service Society.
The state Congress leadership definitely could do without throwing his towel in the ring aiming for a KO and the Kerala Chief Minister’s post. And Tharoor seems to want to be a loud voice in the Congress even before 2024. That could spell trouble for the “high command”, and a renewed faceoff with Mallikarjun Kharge, the high command’s Congress President.
Don’t forget Tharoor is also one of the original G23. Also remember Tharoor got an impressive 1200-plus votes in the contest for the post of Congress President against Kharge. Those were votes cast against the high command, a thousand-plus signals indicating that there existed callers for “real democracy” in the otherwise largely moribund Congress consumed by the lure of the Gandhi family.
If Tharoor emerges as a chief-ministerial face of the UDF for the 2026 assembly elections, many of those ranting against him now will be silenced and the high-command will have to relent. His “Malabar campaign” made it amply clear that Shashi Tharoor is not mortally scared of the Congress high-command.
Among those who have taken him “to task” include KC Venugopal, and Ramesh Chennithala. Tharoor has both of them and others like them boxed, and their boxes checked. Perhaps his many meaningless (to them) English words keep him protected. If in fact Shashi Tharoor becomes CM someday, he will be the first Kerala Chief Minister who will be a known face and familiar figure in the entire India.
The high-command in all likelihood does not like Shashi Tharoor and his “shenanigans” because he is not like AK Antony, and KC Venugopal. This man has a mind of his own. And he was famous long before they were with his oratory and with the books he wrote. Tharoor disturbs people who stick together to survive.
What goes against Tharoor is that he brings out the mediocrity in leaders. And that without trying, or wanting to. Just by looks, and behaviour alone, he gives many loudmouths a strong dose of mandatory inferiority complex. Perhaps that would be why he wouldn’t fit into the BJP.
And talk that Tharoor is a maverick is far from the truth after three terms in the Lok Sabha. Often enough he has been called to unsettle the treasury. And when the UPA was the treasury, he was a minister. If Kharge was qualified to be Congress President, Tharoor would have been no less a good fit. It is just that Tharoor is a little too independent-sounding than Kharge’s baritone.
The other day, Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh, when asked if the Bharat Jodo Yatra wasn’t actually ‘Congress Jodo Yatra’, said that the Congress was always party of “groups”, each group given a great degree of independence to air their views and grievances; a sort of healthy competition that always augured well for the Congress.
That may be so, and the Congress in Kerala always had more than its share of “groupism”, often causing strife within and a degree of bloodletting, in a manner of speaking, which left the party either strengthened or weakened depending on the circumstances.
But it seems Shashi Tharoor butting into state-level affairs has left the groups in a disarray, and angry. Perhaps even rattled. The “outsider” wants to be an “insider”. And sit at the head of the table.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra left the Kerala state line nearly a 100 days ago with all of the Kerala state Congress unit as one behind Rahul Gandhi and his quest for Bharat Jodo. But, today, as BJY gets closer to its final destination, Tharoor’s ambitions have left the Congress in Kerala split. Is that the reason why Tharoor is talking of Modi losing the central government not an impossibility (IPA Service)