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.


this blog now needs a pseudonym, lest ur bosses find out :) passionate, emotional, heart felt wrote up. Good to read such stuff frm u after a while. I think u raise some very valid points, both abt the nature of our polity and abt the nature of our media. It seems Mr.Tharoor was judged by completely diff standards compared to his contemporaries. His being a lateral did not help. I always felt that from the beginning the media found him a soft target, someone with no firm backing or stakes in the system, someone who cudnt harm the media, someone they cud play with. On many ocassions, needless noise was made abt what he said. Tho to be fair, politicians pay a price of bng in public life where even their personal utterances can be juxtaposed in light of the office they hold. Tharoor admitted recently that he had much to learn. And while curroption n nepotism charge against him was much light compared to many others, he paid the price of being the outsider and an irritant. Which is terribly sad, becuase despite indiscretions, he had some very good qualities about him.
As for the media, they are bloodhounds. As i said this is their high; i am sure to many of them such outcomes feel equivalent to an orgasm. There isnt any denying of their positive impact but far too often they choose an easy route. Ironic, isnt it, that while they asked for Tharoor to go, media channels were busy shwng Sania-Shoaib wedding interviews on prime time. Perspective was a casualty in both stories.
Well written. Keep writing with such feeling.

Thank you for the instant late night comment. I love you for the ardent reader that Iv found in you. Yep and yep, Im glad that somebody atleast appreciates my viewpoint on the Tharoor issue. Everybody else seems oblivious to the long-term damage it has caused. Tis strange, cause when he was elected, people had made a lot of noise. The same people are quiet today. Maybe then, they didnt know what they were rooting for. Or maybe our people are simply devoid of the power to think independently.

Thank you for appreciating my passion for writing this post. Was ignited by the conversation with you. And thanks again for foregoing sleep to comment here :) You remain a cherished reader... :)

I agree with your point of view on "complete lack of perspective..", but on sacking and all it is just part and parcel which comes in any kind of politics.

Tharoor will come out of it and I hope he continues the good work he was doing..

A very well written article. What saddens me is that despite coming under fire repeatedly, Tharoor failed to learn from his mistakes, and thus it was only a matter of time before his party or even the PM stopped coming to his rescue.

What is even more disturbing is that with growing 'tabloidization' of The Forth Estate in India, important news takes a back seat and petty matters come to lime light. Media has repeatedly proven they have little understanding of politics, and even English language, as attempts of scandalizing Tharoor's tweets have proved.

It is only a matter of time before Tharoor rebounds, and hopefully he wun make the same mistakes again. He has already stopped tweeting (i am one of his followers) since resigning.

@sid: thanks for the instant comment! im sure tharoor would come back... stronger and better! * fingers crossed *

@gagan: i follow him on twitter too and saw his tweet-less page after the resignation. his national address in the parliament today further went on to prove his civility, modesty, and maybe even integrity. he urged the PM to call for a probe to clear his name of the blemish. btw the whole point of my post was to highlight how tharoor was different cause he wasn't afraid to speak his mind. i say he remains that way. we need mavericks.

I was expecting a post on this and here you are... Wonderfully written as always!

I resonate your views and felt really bad about the entire episode but what surprises me the most is that a diplomat of his stature couldn't be diplomatic enough on multiple occasions. He should have learnt much earlier about the extent of impact seemingly casual utterances can have.

I like the part where you have talked about maintaining his dignity and composure, it surely is a differentiator. I don't even want to get started on media.

Nice post!

it seems you were deeply affected by the entire controversy.The piece is heartfelt,brimming with a lot of anger and seething with even more passion.It especially hurts when you see an illustrious and dignified man like him get sucked into the whirlpool...otherwise good analysis...no sweeping statements,a whole lot of rationale behind what you've said...political commentator should be your destined profile...

I totally subscribe to your views. I saw in Tharoor a saviour for the country. But all men have to go in a world of evil. Take the example of Jesus. (Am not comparing Tharoor to Jesus) But he just wasnt made for the bad bad world of Politics. He is educated, graceful, dignified. Doesnt in any way suit our brand of politcs.

@sai: thx for the comment! he just tried being civil all along.

@niharika: i wish to be that some day! thanks for the 'ultimate' comment! :)

@stuti: but we still need more like him. general consensus here too suggests that he shouldn't have gone!

I think news channels are fun, including yours and India TV. Not that i am clubbing the 2 channels together.
However, i don't have any sympathies for tharoor just like i don't have any for Modi. And both deserve what they are getting.
So who all can read your blog?

@arunabh: tharoor did :) i sent him the link over mail n he replied :)

hy, a nice, well thought out, heartfelt post again. Although Im not much a news person, i hate to admit, and esp i have zero apptite for all these dramas, i do think, and i believe so do several others, that tharoor is a breath of fresh air, and it was unfortunate that he was snuffed out by being made to resign. one somehwat good thing happens to indian politics, but instead we go ahead and strangle it before it even started. dunno if our oldie politicians are insecure, or running out of things to do, but i really wish more ppl like tharoor were part of our set of 'country runners'. your post reminds me of the movie YUVA and the urgent need it depicted of the youth to be part of the dirty political games, and not be deterred by the patriarchs. I belive that movie and other campaigns did rouse the youth, but looks like only temporarily. are we honestly happy to give up the reigns of our contry to these crackpot old fools? I am truly disappointed with the recent state of affairs, be it kasab, or these cricket etc controversies, or our lack of strictness towards pakistan.. wonder if we will ever have a leader with a personality, wit, charm and balls!!

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@aditi: i like how u closed ur comment :) and ironical, that you live in mumbai and quote a movie (yuva) to prove the point :P takes me back to the delhi vs mumbai discussion we had on the phone the other day :P the city is seeping in your veins... and you cant help it! :P

what makes u think he wud have a clean future when his start is so murky?? just becos someones tweets doesn't make him/her gud public servant......

he worth and place in indian politics is at max same as that of certain "Robin Uttahapa" in indian cricket..... n everybody knows and sees where both are today!!!

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