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Tharoor’s Best, 2017: From Smartening Politics to Aiding Rohingyas

Here’s a compilation of some of Tharoor’s columns published in 2017 that hit the chord with our readers.

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Opinion
5 min read
Tharoor’s Best, 2017: From Smartening Politics to Aiding Rohingyas
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Congress leader, Lok Sabha MP, and author Shashi Tharoor is known for speaking his mind on contemporary issues – from foreign affairs to politics. Here’s a compilation of some of his columns published in 2017 that hit the chord with our readers.

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Need for Professionals in Politics

As youngsters snigger at the very thought of joining politics, in his column, published on 2 August 2017, Tharoor emphasised the need for middle-class professionals, known for certain core values, to give it a shot.

Elaborating on the ‘healthy infusion’ of professionals, Tharoor wrote:

Can India afford the continued “secession of the professionals” from our politics? No – and it probably won’t, as the country’s economic transformation brings more and more people into the middle and professional classes, which will one day reach the point where its numbers will indeed begin to matter in elections. Why shouldn’t Indian politics benefit from a healthy infusion of professionals?
Shashi Tharoor on Why India Needs More Professionals in Politics

On Beef Ban

New rules for the sale of cattle, notified by the Environment Ministry in May, resulted in massive furore, with those in the livestock and meat industry fearing loss of livelihoods. In an article titled ‘Shashi Tharoor: Centre’s Beef with Beef Defies ‘Live and Let Live’’, the Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram explained why the Centre’s diktat is against the very principles of India’s Constitution.

The first issue is constitutional – the decision to institute the full prohibition of cow slaughter is a prerogative of the states, not the government at the Centre. Entry 15 of the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution provides for the “preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases, veterinary training and practice,” empowering state legislatures to legislate prevention of slaughter and preservation of cattle.

Reiterating the age-old principle of ‘live and let live,’ Tharoor emphasised the need to refrain from succumbing to a ‘peculiar kind of Hindu chauvinism.’

Our government has given voice to a peculiar kind of Hindu chauvinism, one that embraces the activist assertion of a narrowly constructed version of the faith. It cannot be described as “fundamentalism,” for Hinduism is a religion singularly devoid of fundamentals: It lacks a single sacred book, a single version of divinity, and even the equivalent of a Sabbath day.
Shashi Tharoor: Centre’s Beef With Beef Defies ‘Live and Let Live’
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Response to PM Modi’s Independence Day Speech

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on Independence Day, Tharoor questioned the basis of some of the claims that were made.

This gap between rhetoric and reality is the besetting flaw in all the PM’s pronouncements. There were several more examples of this:

  • Talk of good governance belied by the tragic deaths of 90 children in a government hospital in Gorakhpur as a result of negligence, inefficiency, corruption or all three;
  • Youth being celebrated by the PM as “bhagya vidhatas” but employment opportunities for them shrinking; after record lows in job creation, worsened by the negative impact of demonetisation, the government speaks of youth becoming job-givers rather than job-seekers, a cruel joke for a young man who has nothing; the PM boasts of creating 2 crore (200 lakh) jobs but his own government’s figures show just over 1 lakh created a year, or 0.5% of the target;
  • PM claims more than 14,000 un-electrified villages have been electrified, but how many houses in those villages have? Reports indicate more than 90% of the homes in the so-called electrified villages have no access to the connectivity the government boasts of. Only 8% of electrified villages have all houses connected;
  • The PM says farmer incomes will be doubled by 2022 but they have actually been dropping under his watch and farmer suicides have increased dramatically and tragically;
  • And the PM claimed to have unearthed black money worth ₹1.25 lakh crore in 3 years (2014-17); but in the previous two years (2012-14) the UPA Government unearthed Rs 1.31 lakh crore. Were his results worth the disruption of the economy that accompanied demonetisation?

You can read the complete article here.

Invoking ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ on Rohingyas

With the Centre taking a surprising stand on Rohingyas, suggesting that they are a ‘serious and potential threat to national security’ and therefore should be deported, Tharoor invoked the traditional belief of ‘atithi devo bhava (guest is like god)‘ in his article published on 20 September 2017.

This, understandably, bothers the United Nations, which has politely pointed out that the principle of non-refoulement – under which no Member State of the UN will forcibly return a refugee to a country where he or she fears persecution – is binding on all states as a principle of customary international law, whether they have signed the UN’s Refugee Convention or not. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case that argues that it is illegal for the government to deport Rohingyas.
Legalities aside, there is also a simple moral case here. Our so-called Hindu nationalists are, as usual, forgetting the values on which the Hindu faith is based, one cardinal principle of which is ‘atithi devo bhava’, the guest is like god.
With Rohingyas, Hindu Nationalists Forget ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’
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On Sonia Gandhi’s Legacy

As Sonia Gandhi turned 71 on 9 December, with Rahul Gandhi taking charge as Congress president, in an article titled ‘Sonia Gandhi, A Novice in Politics who Mastered the Art’, Tharoor highlighted the legacy of the UPA chairperson and her unflinching commitment to the very ‘idea of India.’

Her uncompromising commitment to India’s rich pluralism and diversity sets her party apart from those who pursue the divisive politics of identity, seeking votes in the name of caste loyalty or religious self-assertion; the Congress remains the one party with a truly inclusive national vision.

“Her instinctive sympathy for the plight of the downtrodden led the UPA into enacting some of the most far-reaching welfare measures in the history of the developing world, enshrining the right to food, the right to work, the right to education, and the state’s responsibility for urban development and public health. Her devotion to democracy, and governmental accountability lay behind the Right to Information Act, which introduced an unprecedented level of transparency into the work of India’s governance,” Tharoor wrote in the article.

On Rahul Gandhi Taking Over as Congress President

With the baton of the Grand Old Party being passed over to Rahul Gandhi, there are speculations regarding internal reforms that the party might witness in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. As Rahul Gandhi was handed over the reins formally on 16 December, just as everyone was waiting for Gujarat election results, in the article titled ‘Shashi Tharoor on Rahul Gandhi’s Key Challenges Before 2019 Polls’, the Congress MP wrote:

Rahul Gandhi has been consistently right on this. He should follow his instinct and open up the party to internal elections for its key positions, including membership of the Congress Working Committee. Allow, indeed encourage, the emergence of local, state and regional leaders, ratified by periodic votes of party members.

“At the same time, crack down severely on the disloyalty and dissidence stoked by those who put their personal ambitions above the party’s interests, a habit visible in many places during the recent elections,” Tharoor wrote.

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Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from voices and opinion

Topics:  Shashi Tharoor   Goodbye 2017 

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