Home » Politics » Indian Politics » An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor

An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor

Dear Dr. Shashi Tharoor,

I first got interested in diplomacy and the United Nations as a teenager, around the same time you emerged as a strong contender for the post of UN Secretary-General. Regardless of that result, I was fascinated by your career as the most successful Indian in the field. My fascination soon turned into fandom as I was inspired by watching your interviews and speeches. I memorised your TEDtalk, I aspired for the Tufts MALD program, I rattled off your remarkable achievements in casual conversations ; so much so, that my friends started referring to me whenever they heard or read your name. You were my idol.

And then you decided to enter Indian politics. That decision gave millions of people, like me, hope that our rotting political system can change. You were our ideal MP – highly educated global thinker, eloquent speaker and a seasoned politician; a combination of competency, experience and integrity rarely seen before in Indian politics. Regardless of which party’s ticket you ran with, people would have voted for you in 2009 – as evidenced by your thumping margin of victory despite being an outsider to Thiruvananthapuram politics.

But 2014 is a whole new ballgame.

The mood of the country has changed, hopefully irrevocably. Over the last few years, the UPA and most state governments, across party lines, have engaged in open and blatant abuse of power. Corruption, nepotism, misgovernance and votebank politics have become alarmingly routine. But, more importantly, the emergence of a strong media determined to showcase stunning exposés and the mass awakening against corruption, led by Anna Hazare, has led to dizzying levels of political awareness in India. People want change. We will oppose identity politics, we will reject dynastic politics, and most of all, we will punish brazen corruption. You, of all Parliamentarians, should recognise this trend and join us in eliminating these archaic and immoral practices.

But, these days, the more I listen to your interviews, hear your speeches and read your tweets, the more it seems you have lost your once fiercely independent voice. Before you joined Indian politics, you have openly criticised the Congress Party, its “true dynastic tradition”1 and its corrupt core. In your book, From Midnight to Millennium, while recollecting Rajiv Gandhi’s term you wrote that after a promising campaign, “the rot set in…Compromise followed sellout as New Delhi returned to business as usual” [1] as this government too was charged with massive corruption. Do you honestly believe that Sonia Gandhi, the woman you are so loyal to now, and the other Congress stalwarts who continue to rule today, were not involved in what you yourself call, the “sellout”? Yet, just last month, despite the deluge of corruption scandals over the last few years, you unambiguously defended the UPA’s term harping on outdated phrases and a spasm of extravagant statistic-listing in The Indian Express [2]. You call India a “thriving, entrepreneurial and globalised economy”, when inflation, investment levels, balance of payments, the Rupee’s value and other key economic indicators have all worsened exponentially. You declare that the UPA is responsible for substantial employment generation, despite The Economic and Political Weekly and even a government study terming these numbers grossly exaggerated [3] [4]. You even go so far as to state that “the UPA governance has changed the face of our society”. Yes, Dr. Tharoor, it has. And the face of our society is mutilated beyond recognition.

Please realise that every day you continue to endorse and defend the Congress Party, you lose your own moral high ground and become part of the herd of mindless politicians this country has unfortunately elected. It is, quite frankly, insulting to see educated ministers not having the courage and honesty to admit obvious lapses in governance and then absolve the UPA government of all corruption cases without trial. It is, quite frankly, embarrassing to see experienced parliamentarians, including yourself, acting like court sycophants, falling over each other to praise ‘Rahul baba’, a man with no notable experience or achievement [5]. Let the other obsequious partymen sacrifice their self-respect and dignity at the altar of the Nehru-Gandhi family. You, Sir, deserve more. You have accomplishments of your own throughout your glittering career as a diplomat. You deserve respect from common people like me. And we need educated, independent and sensible voices in Parliament. Please do not sacrifice our hopes of change by succumbing to the Congress disease of sycophancy and dynastic politics.

I do not ask you to jump into the Modi camp either. It doesn’t need extensive research to know that you are ideologically against what the BJP stands for. I am no fan of the BJP; I believe the BJP has been a grossly irresponsible opposition party guilty of insulting Parliament through regular disruptions and corruption at the state-level on countless occasions. As a Bangalorean, I was thrilled when the BJP lost the Karnataka elections last year. Because it proved to me, as it did to you, that Indian voters were ready to punish, in your own words, “flagrant financial malfeasance…charges of nepotism and crony capitalism, real-estate and mining scandals, policy paralysis” [6]. But in your Project Syndicate article, you took that premise and somehow managed to come to the conclusion that it bodes well for the Congress. You are far too experienced a politician for me to expect that you do not recognise the massive failures of the UPA government, or the current political climate against the UPA. The Congress-led central government is guilty of everything the BJP-led Karnataka government was, but on a larger, more devastating scale.

I do not discount your significant contributions as Member of Parliament, Foreign Minister and Human Resource Minister. But as a well-wisher and a patriot, this is my plea: please, leave the Congress Party.

Contest as an independent and voice your independent opinion in parliament. Continue all the good work you have been doing in your constituency [7]. I have heard first-hand that Thiruvananthapuram has changed for the better since 2009 because of your active and sensible leadership. Continue raising India’s international profile using your invaluable experience as a former UN diplomat. Your proactivity and sensitivity as Foreign Minister was instrumental in nurturing important diplomatic relationships with states across the world as evidenced by numerous testimonies [8]. Continue contributing to our policymaking in Parliamentary committees. Your initiatives have found support across party lines primarily because your reasoning is backed by a career of political and developmental expertise. And finally, continue giving us hope that capable and honest individuals can exist in Parliament. In fact, beyond setting an example, you could lead the charge and promote the idea to other qualified, educated, and most importantly, honest people across the country.

I have faith, Sir. I have faith in you and in our country. Millions of my peers do to. Please do not disappoint us.

Yours Sincerely,
A well-wisher, desperate for change in India.

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3 Comments

  1. Pritesh Somani says:

    Hi Writer!!

    The article is a good reflection of nation’s mood today. You have stated clearly that you are very disappointed with the Congress Party. But if only you had not diluted the intent of your letter by not aligning yourself to any political party!! Let’s be honest, whether you support a party or not, a government is going to be formed in 2014, then why not choose the lesser of the two evils (well, in our case many evils). Also it would have been only fair to pose questions to him about his part in financial irregularities in a company holding stakes in a IPL team.

    Thank you

    Pritesh

    Like

  2. Aarti Sreenivas says:

    Hi writer!

    Shashi would be a great addition to Indian politics no doubt, if he had a party of his own for all the reasons that you have mentioned. But the truth of the matter is that his party can only go so far to reach a select percentage of educated Indians (I say select percentage because many have been woo-ed by Gujarat’s development and have turned to camp Modi). Most of India is still rural and Shashi’s international background or commentary on policy issues, would be incomprehensible for rural India or it be considered elitist. The truth of the matter is that Indian politics is still very local and identity based. People vote according to which politician can give food subsidies, rather than have a serious discussion on the economic policy moves Parliament needs to take and vote according to which is the more convincing policy. Shashi could do the later with ease, but thats not what the mass Indian public is ready for. The good news is that India is moving in that direction of having a conversation about policy, but I dont believe that all of India or majority of India its there yet.

    As amazing as Shashi is, he is too inaccessible for most Indians.

    Like

    • Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says:

      I think you are underestimating Shashi by calling him inaccessible. He is very accessible to his constituents, otherwise he wouldn’t have won an unprecedented back to back victory in the Thiruvananthapuram constituency. He is able to understand the issues faced by the common man very well and able to find a practical solution to their problems. However his detractors including his opponents in his own party and the media want to portray him as inaccessible elitist to prevent his rise in the Indian polity. And its a shame that a lot of educated and well read Indians like yourself have fallen for this propaganda. Unfortunately or rather fortunately I say, Shashi doesn’t play tit for tat politics and hence is not attacking these individuals with as much vengeance as they are attacking him. He is a man of principle and he will not tarnish him image for petty politics.

      Like

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