Friday, 27 March 2009

Tharoor is looking Parliament, talking Knesset

Shashi Tharoor, when declared as the UDF candidate for the Lok Sabha elections from Thiruvananthapuram, appeared too polished to be a politician and had a panache that was the much-hooted sign of the middle class professional entering politics. But that was just a resounding loud false alarm. No sooner was his candidature announced than skeletons started to tumble; and tumble they did from everywhere imaginable.
Though Tharoor tried to lure the netizen youth and NRKs (Non Resident Keralites) through his website explaining his candidature, he has been criticised in many Internet forums. Right from his being a member of the advisory committee of the Coca-Cola India Foundation to the legal tangle for allegedly disrupting the National Anthem; to his 1992 comments on Sonia Gandhi’s inability to lead the party, to recently the KPCC youth burning his effigy at the state capital.
These allegation standing, what should be of concern to the diverse electorate of Thiruvananthapuram are Tharoor’s views on Israel and his admiration for its military offensive in Gaza that left the strip in tatters earlier this year. In an article titled India’s Israel envy (Haaretz, January 23, 2009) Tharoor, contrary to India’s stand on the Palestine conflict (which incidentally is also Congress’ view), expresses his sympathies for Israel that is “a small country living in a permanent state of siege… surrounded by forces that are hostile to it”. Tharoor, displaying his pro-Western ideology, might overlook the fact that the “forces” (read Hamas) is a democratically elected government the people of Palestine have chosen, but he cannot or rather should not gloss over the human right violations that the Israel army has done in Gaza for which it is drawing flak from the UN Human Rights Council, a subsidiary of the UN that he aspired to head only a few years ago.
While sticking out his neck for the Israelis, Tharoor does not miss to take a dig at the Congress-led UPA and the sorry state of India’s national borders in, “… unlike Israel, India has seemed unable to do anything about it (terrorist attacks)” and “India is a giant country whose borders are notoriously permeable, an open society known for its lax and easygoing ways”. Tharoor’s “lax and easygoing” comment reminds one of an oriental view of a Westerner who sees Indians as a group of people who ‘need to be governed’. This is a view of a person sitting in Park Avenue or cooling off at Burj Dubai, not that of a peoples representative who has sweated it out in front of the secretariat or the streets of Thiruvananthapuram.It will be interesting to see if Thiruvananthapuram, which last favoured a LDF candidate, oblige Tharoor. Tharoor claims to know the state capital. The question is: Does the state capital know him? For a man who until 2007 was “living in and out of a suitcase” while in the city, Thiruvananthapuram must be more than a handful. When Tharoor says that the time he has spent in the city is enough to represent it, it reflects poor of the electorate he aspires to represent. Come May 16 and we would know if Thiruvananthapuram will have a parliamentarian who is an Israel-sympathising NRK.

New age Gandhigiri

India means different things to different people, but the iconic figure of the Mahatma looms the largest. The scenes at the Antiquorum auction in New York on March 6 gave a new dimension to Gandhigiri. Some of the stuff that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi used in his lifetime: eyeglasses, pocket watch, sandals and a bowl and plate, went under the hammer. The entire lot was bought by billionaire industrialist Vijay Mallya. So in a week’s time India will be home both to the sandals worn by a great ahimsa preacher, and the sword used by an 18th century warrior-king, perhaps under the same roof, owned by a liquor baron. Mallya’s right to purchase Gandhi memorabilia is unquestioned, but the attitude of the government and the media hysteria need serious contemplation. And it is one thing for the Navajeevan Trust to create awareness about Gandhiji’s writings, but its claim to every piece of paper and shred of cloth owned, used and associated with the man is bogus. In any case, what charismatic transformation will the Mahatma’s belongings bring to India, where probably he has been disrespected the most --- from the politician who swears by his name to the crisp Rs 1,000 note. The silly hysteria fanned by the auction has become an occasion for politicians and public figures of all stripes to indulge in a sickening display of competitive sycophancy.
Gandhi himself was in favour of such auctions and did it during his time for the welfare of Dalits, a fact great grandson Tushar Gandhi might probably not be aware of. Anu Bandyopadhyaya’s Bahuroopee Gandhi with a foreword by Pandit Nehru exalts bapu’s bania traits. Gandhi, like his contemporary George Bernard Shaw who obliged autographs knowing its appraisal, might have been aware of the monetary value his items would fetch. If the Centre is really serious about retrieving Gandhi memorabilia, it should keep its coffers filled because Gandhi used to gift visitors his belongings as a token of appreciation. Moreover, the government does not have a good record of safeguarding national treasures, Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel medallion being the most glaring lapse. Perhaps it would be better for Mallya to keep the items, as he did with the sword of Tipu Sultan. At times like this one feels the father of the nation was wise to dress like a ‘half-naked fakir’ rather than wear a three-piece suit. If Gandhi had continued with his raiment from South Africa, we would require more Mallyas to bid for his leather gloves, handkerchiefs or his trouser clips.