‘PM Modi is Not A Fascist’: Shashi Tharoor in His Latest Book
A quick scan through Shashi Tharoor’s Twitter timeline allows you to understand his religious and cultural identity with ease. Attired in the traditional mundu, the MP from Thiruvananthapuram can be seen partaking in various religious ceremonies in the state. While he can be seen sharing the joy of religious festivities with Christians and Muslims too, Tharoor has never tried to hide the Hindu moorings of his public persona. In his latest book Why I Am A Hindu, Tharoor has tried to answer the first question that anyone traversing through his timeline may stop to ask.
When asked about his very public instances of temple-going, Tharoor shares, “I have been to temples particularly in two phases of my life. When I was a child, I was going with my parents and subsequently, when I became a public figure and was going with my colleagues, party workers as part of the social practice. I also go to mosques and churches.”
In fact, every single Christmas, except once for a family reason, I have been to Christmas Mass in three different denominations in the past 9 years. So that becomes not a religious act, but to a degree, a political act but certainly, one connoting respect and reverence. When I go to a Hindu temple, there’s a traditional difference. I am also a Hindu, so I can’t just go there as an observer. I go there very much as a participant who also prays, gives dakshina, and gets ‘prasaad’.
It does not end there for politics comes with its own set of idiosyncrasies. One such is the party workers’ penchant for worship, and mind you, devotion is not restricted to divinity, Tharoor recalls.
Some of my party workers pledged that in return for A, B or C, I will be weighed against bananas, sugar or coconut in the temple in the ‘Tula-Bharam’ practice and my weight’s worth of the same will be donated to the temple. To fulfill their pledges, I’ve had to go and do this also. But I’ve often asked myself if the MP was a Christian or a Muslim, would they have made the pledge or would he have played this part?
Now hearing Tharoor speak thus may lend credence to the accusation of his coming closer to the opposition party in spirit and action.
Some of his own party members had critiqued his support to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, PM Modi’s flagship initiative. Tharoor lays his cards in the open on this. “I defend the rival party when they are right. The problem with that party is, unfortunately, they are right at times, but their exaggerations and far-flung claims are so wrong that they discredit even the bits that are right.”
He demonstrates it using Dr Harshavardhan’s case of coming under fire for his claims that Indian knowledge systems preceded the western scientific enquiry. “The reason Dr Harshvardhan came under attack wrongly, even though what he said was right, was because he was making this claim in the Indian Science Congress in which the ruling party had pushed and blessed some of the most outlandish, ill-founded and unscientific assertions such as Pushpak Vimans flying around eons ago. The entire Pushpak Viman theory is based on one fraudulent forged document which has been discredited in the 1920s,” Tharoor said.
Of course, it is true that India was the country where plastic surgery was first performed. Indeed, the first recorded rhinoplasty in the world was done by Sushruta. But the truth is, to say that Ganesha’s head is the evidence of plastic surgery you are making a whole lot of people disbelieve that plastic surgery was ever done in India, though, in fact, it was! So why don’t you stick to the facts and you’ll have a good story.
While he’s amused by the exaggerated claims of the BJP, Tharoor does not approve of the exaggerated attacks on the ruling party. In the book he admits that PM Modi is not the “fascist” that many see him as.
To my mind, labels are much less useful than understanding the specific conduct of a political actor and standing up against what is wrong. There is a lot we can attack them for and to do so does not require the label ‘Fascist’.
He also urges everyone to have a sense of proportion, yes even while attacking the opponent. Surely, this lesson comes from the Mahabharata, where even the wars are fought guided by dharma, following strict codes of conduct.
Let us see things proportionately. It’s not that there is anything to admire in the policies of the government but using a term of political abuse should be founded on very detailed and specific factors.
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