Cong bosses in Kerala take on Shashi Tharoor for telling party to be ‘constructive’ opposition; three-time MP unfazed by attack


Thiruvananthapuram: Shashi Tharoor has come under a stinging attack from his Congress party bosses back home in Kerala over his suggestion that Congress should formulate a constructive approach as an opposition party. The three-time MP’s comment is dubbed as “praise Modi” litany by colleagues at home, eager to please the top party brass. But Tharoor remains unflappable as he knows that his services are of greater value for the Congress in parliament than ever before.

Congress leaders in Kerala are barking up the wrong tree by launching a stinging attack against Shashi Tharoor over his suggestion that the party should formulate a more constructive response in its opposition to the Narendra Modi Government. Obviously, it is to please the ‘highest command’ in the Congress that the party leaders in Kerala, right from the KPCC chief Mullapally Ramachandran to Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, are competing with each other in lambasting Tharoor.

Tharoor has remained undeterred against the high-optic ranting against him. He knew that his services are required by the Congress now than ever before as he is one of the few good speakers the party has in parliament. In his third consecutive term into the Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram, Tharoor has vehemently defended the Congress’ stand on key issues like abrogation of Article 370 and the amendments to the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

However, there is a method in targeting Tharoor by his colleagues at home. They are more eager to demonstrate their blind loyalty to the party’s first family, rather than holding on to firm political convictions. They think that refusing to give Modi the benefit of doubt over any issue under the Sun will please the ‘highest command.’ This is especially so since Kerala is the only state, in the prevailing political climate in the country, where the Congress has some bright prospects.

The Congress has put up a splendid performance in the Lok Sabha polls, grabbing 19 of the 20 seats. Along with its UDF allies, the Congress has dealt a mortal blow to the ruling CPI (M) controlled LDF, and dashed the hopes of the BJP to break its jinx in the southern state. The huge victory would mean that UDF can easily win the Assembly polls due in early 2021. It is important for the leaders who have set their eyes on spoils of power to keep the top brass in good humour.

As the assembly polls draw closer, the Congress in the state is sure to witness a bitter power struggle. The Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Ramesh Chennithala is waiting in the wings to be the chief minister in the event of the UDF capturing power. But it may not be a smooth sailing for him. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Mullapally Ramachandran my emerge as a challenger, going by his seniority, stature, track record and image.

Ramachandran, who hails from the numerically strong Thiyya (Ezhava) community in North Kerala, is a former Union minister and had a long stint in the Lok Sabha. He was made the KPCC chief a few months before the LS polls, replacing stop-gap president M M Hassan. Ramachandran is hailed as the architect of the resounding victory of the Congress in the polls. He had gone quite systematically in the selection of candidates and organising and executing the campaign. His poll time moto was 20:20, which means victory in all the 20 seats. The strike rate turned out to be extremely impressive. So, he cannot just be a push over for the top slot after the assembly polls.

A shrewd politician, Chennithala will not take things lying down. As the opposition leader he is the shadow chief minister. He enjoys an excellent relationship with the first family. Hailing from Nair community in south Kerala, he has the tacit support of the influential community outfit Nair Service Society (NSS).

In the event of a showdown between the two, backing of the central leadership will be crucial. In the coming days, both the leaders will not let go every opportunity that comes in their way to endear themselves to AICC president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, who is now an MP from Kerala. For them, Tharoor’s statement has come handy. Ramachandran, in his capacity as the state party chief, has sought an explanation from Tharoor over his Modi comments. Chennithala has also made some strongly worded statements against Tharoor. They were also joined by other leaders like K Muraleedharan, now a member of parliament and son of Congress veteran late K Karunakaran.

Tharoor has since then clarified that his statement has been distorted by media, known for their penchant to ‘make mountains out of mole hills.” “I have been a strong critic of the Modi Government& I hope a constructive one. My staunch defence of inclusive values & constitutional principles has won me 3 elections. I urge fellow congressmen to respect my approach even when they don’t agree with it” Tharoor said in a Facebook post.

Interestingly, the original statement did not come from Tharoor but Jairam Ramesh, who said ‘demonising’ Modi would not lead the Congress anywhere in the trying circumstances. Tharoor has just latched on to Ramesh’s comments.

Tharoor has remained unfazed after being caught in the firing line at home. He knew that his services are better valued by the central leadership when the party is devoid of effective speakers in the Lok Sabha.