Grade Crossing

How Tharoor became an opportunist

It doesn't require the worldly knowledge one gets with a St Stephen's degree to understand the difference between the politically right but morally wrong.

 |  Grade Crossing  |  4-minute read |   02-08-2015
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Shashi Tharoor has an eerie propensity to do things that attract news value. It is a gift that he enjoys with high consistency, thanks to his social media popularity, impressive personality, different thinking, and articulation skills. But those qualities have not always made him the darling of good news. He has been in good news for his straightforward commentary about his social life; at the same time has been heavily chastised for keeping a low profile about the controversies and tragedies in his personal life.

Shortly after questioning the capital punishment in the country, Tharoor is in the news for allegedly writing a letter to Sonia Gandhi, about how distressed he is by the news of her admonishing him. This is no good or bad news at face value, but it can belong to either category depending on which side you support. Although Tharoor hasn't spoken clearly to the media, or in the social media, about the budding controversy, the pith of the alleged letter is that his sincere efforts for the Congress have not found due recognition.

Tharoor may have written the said letter. Maybe he is a tad disappointed about the treatment being meted out to him by his own party. I live in Thiruvananthapuram, and I know it pretty well that he is not all that popular among the state leadership of his party. But he has a charismatic image among the general public, despite the controversies that loom large on his personal life. It is not just the state leadership that gets to vote in an election. So he still represents the constituency.

All bode well until now. Suddenly, Tharoor has acted like any other politician. I was dismayed to see him sharing this post on Twitter.

Actually, the picture did not make me discomposed, but the description did. Tharoor visited the house of the deceased Neelakanta Sarma, an advocate, who collapsed in his bathroom, suffered serious internal bleeding, and was declared brain dead after two weeks in hospital. His family, amidst the great pain, quickly made up their mind to donate his organs. With the help of Mrithasanjeevani, the state network to encourage organ sharing, Sarma's organs brought six ailing people back to life.

Tharoor visited the family of Sarma, and as usual, a photo of the visit was up on his Twitter feed. Maybe in an effort to add to his "sincere efforts for the Congress party" and get proper attention, he wrote that he visited the house of "Congressman" Neelakanta Sarma, who donated his organs. Claps for being politically sane, and boos for being morally insane!

Even in the local dailies here, there was no mention of the political inclination of Sarma, but Tharoor spotted it. Sarma's family thought of donating his organs not because he was a Congressman or because Sonia Gandhi had convinced them to do it, but because of their superlative thinking, high social values, and pure greatness. I may have ignored the mention of "Congressman" had it come from any politician but Tharoor. Although there is no rubric of political demeanour for a reference, Tharoor should realise that such acts of opportunism will only debase himself to the level of most of his peers. What if a religious fanatic had taken the freedom to consider that Sarma was also a Hindu, besides being a Congressman? What if someone said he was a brahmin, besides being a Hindu and a Congressman? Luckily, it did not happen; people only said he was human while extending their gratitude to his heart that now beats in a Christian's body.

It does not require the worldly knowledge one gets with a bachelor's from St Stephen's or a PhD from Tufts to understand the difference between what is politically right but morally wrong. I am reminded of something my high school Malayalam teacher had said about commonsense: "It is okay for a poet to describe the voluptuous body of a woman, but not when she is depicted lamenting beside her husband's corpse." How will one feel if I were to update the photo description as: "Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, who might undergo a polygraph test in connection with the mysterious murder of his third wife Sunanda Pushkar, visits the house of the deceased Neelakantan Sarma, whose family donated his organs." Those, who opposed me until now, but felt the modifiers I used are ill-timed, nonsensical, politically motivated, and in bad taste, are with me now.


Sreejith Panickar Sreejith Panickar @panickars

The writer is a columnist, researcher and social activist. He is the founder-member of Mission Netaji.

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