A new perspective on Tharoorgate…

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 11:41 PM in , , , ,
Victimized by voyeuristic television news channels and penalized for his liberal utterances on Twitter, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor was forced to resign.

A saga that was first publicized by Headlines Today, about his alleged affair with Dubai-based Kashmiri Sunanda Pushkar, spilt over to something much bigger. I am sure when the channel first rolled out this story last week, the intention was just to stay in tune with the general flavor of its content (entertainment based) policy. When Lalit Modi picked up a cue from the dole-out and tweeted about the specifics of the Kochi franchise of the IPL, the matter gained ugly proportions. The slug-fest, prompted by Modi and Tharoor, and carried forward by all four major English news channels (one look at their prime-time discussion shows would have proved my point), resulted in the inevitable ouster of Mr. Tharoor.

It bothers me to see him go. Because the way I see it, and a lot of other news mediums don’t, is that I see it as the end of an era of new-age politics even before it began. An epoch where everybody in the position of power would be allowed to speak their mind and express earnest opinions on even social networking platforms (like Twitter). Not one person in this country seems fully satisfied with our governance mechanism. All of us love to hate the government and everything that it does. When a politician comes along as a new beam of hope for a change in standards (think Obama and Al Gore), instead of appreciating him for what he stands for, we join the chorus of news channels in beating him about the smallest slip-ups. Yes, change is uncomfortable. But change is also essential. Especially when you dislike things the way they stand.

We envy foreign politics for the quality of their people and their connect with the audience. When one of our own politicians makes an attempt to reach out and divulge his correct views on government’s policies and procedures, we shred him apart for being imprudent. Where is this country headed in given circumstances? As people, we appreciate newer concepts like ‘younger politicians’, but bash honest opinion-givers because they deviate from the norm of towing the servile line?

Did we, or them, expect the former dipomat in Tharoor to stoop to the levels of a Narendra Modi who uses forums like Twitter to further his political propaganda? Does he even have a political propaganda? Doesn't that set him apart? And whatever happened to the good sense of our television news channels? One channel might be reckless in its depiction of certain personalities. But if the rules of ‘competition’ dictate that every other channels needs to pick up the bait from here and be equally foolish in their conduct, then I abhor such competition.

For those of you reading my post and nodding in disagreement, I shall come to you for your views when eventually the IPL is banned for proving to be a breeding-ground for ‘match-fixers’ and ‘fiefdoms’. Because trust me you, if a Lalit Modi ouster is on the cards, the reputation of the IPL wouldnt be left unscathed either. It's future could be put into jeopardy.

Tharoor, till the very end, maintained high standards of dignity and composure. Without once denying his close friendship with Sunanda Pushkar, he gracefully offered to resign when he realized that things weren’t going his way. He might have over-stepped his powers as the MoS in the Kochi franchise auction, but he managed to retain his standards of correct conduct. Pushkar in return agreed to give up her Rs.70 crore stake to uphold Tharoor’s position. The Congress, already up in arms and tired of Tharoor’s constant tweets that contradicted their government policy, took this as an opportunity to show Tharoor the door. Of course being a shrewd party that it is, Lalit Modi’s head is lined up next for the guillotine.

The ouster of Shashi Tharoor was sad. With him we lost an educated, refined, polished and erudite politician. Something that our country, standing on the brink of political dubiousness, badly needed. We all seem to realize that development is difficult with the given quality of our politicians. With Mayawati who doesn’t tire of building her own statues, to Varun Gandhi who spews venom each time he opens his mouth, to Karunanidhi who is unable to untangle a messy succession battle, to Narendra Modi who is confused about which community card to play next to expand his voter base, to even a P.Chidambaran who is facing the ire of critics for his failed Naxal strategy after the Dantewada massacre – we are all confused about what we want from the ‘ideal Indian politician’. The UPA government which has so hopelessly failed to either control the spiraling food prices, or even failed to punish an obvious-accused like Ajmal Kasab, has fuelled our desire to scribble more furiously in our mental ‘complaint registers’. With Shashi Tharoor came the ray of hope of a new age of politics where politicians would have been free to drop all pretensions and speak their mind openly. An age where politicians reached out to the people and felt free to share their opinions about things that mattered. We need politicians who dare to deviate, those who refuse the tow the proven line with blindfolded eyes. We need thinking politicians who look beyond themselves towards the greater good of the nation. And we also need politicians who come equipped with a global perspective to take us forward. Tharoor might not have been the ideal politician, but he was definitely a beginning. By losing him, we've done a big disservice to ourselves.

Television channels, so consummated by the short-term joy of higher TRPs, offered cheap thrills to the people in the name of the ‘Tharoor-Sunanda-Modi’ saga. A host of benami IPL transactions still lie under the wraps. It is unfortunate to see this melodramatic saga of public muck-fest conclude the way it did. It is even sadder to see the (as somebody pointed out) 'conditioned' editorial chiefs of our television news channels undeterred by the damage that they have, knowingly or unknowingly, caused to the long-term goals of our country. They sabotaged a new dawn of Indian politics by stealing an example who could have been an inspiration to many others like him. Here in India, it is almost a crime to be erudite and educated. Maybe as a nation who cant move beyond envying western culture, but is unable to acclimatize itself to a liberal way of governance; we deserve to mire in the shackles of poor-development. I feel truly saddened by the complete lack of perspective on the Tharoor issue…

Post Script - By this post, I do not imply to absolve Tharoor of the charges that have been pressed against him in the Kochi franchise. But think about what would happen if we applied similar standards of judgement to our other leaders. Maybe this country would be left leaderless. Cruz remains, we cannot overlook Tharoor’s goodness.

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