Tharoor : The Diplomat

Every medium is engaged in shrieking “Cattle-Class and Holy Cows” debate, though it all started with a tweet, the word which in itself sounds so lilting and melodious. Wasn’t the fall out of twitter comment by Tharoor a bit too harsh on the Ex-Diplomat. I think, each reprimand by congress he is subjected to, is a rude awakening for him in conservative Indian polity that is devoid of humour and dwells on incisive analysis of a twitter message meant to be taken in jest.

First, it was the lifestyle soaked in luxury followed by misinterpretation of “Cattle-Class” that never was attributed to People at large but pointed towards the way passengers are huddled in Economy Class. Without discerning the reference and intent of the remark, quibbling partymen jumped the gun demanding an apology. Some even suggesting that he should resign. Queer as it may sound, this was bound to happen as nit-picking is the only means of conducting business for bunch of haggards, who cannot accept a refreshing change of guard in their league.

Even before Tharoor got elected, there was talk of his distinct profile having served in the UN and skepticism over his style of functioning rather being able to blend with the Indian political culture. Rattled he certainly would have got prior to finding his footsteps in quagmire of criticism by his own ilk. This incident certainly points at the glaring gap in sensitivities of a highly educated, suave diplomat, who earlier has seen the highest echelons of power and run of the mill, fault finding Indian Netas. The paradox is Congress clings to its stance of taking action at appropriate time, when Prime Minister dismissed his remark as a joke. Perhaps, Manmohan Singh understands how demoralizing it would be to let go a relatively young, bright intellectual making a foray into politics and trying to make a difference.

Agreed that he is in public domain where scrutiny is a reality and should refrain from touching upon sensitive cords though unintended. But all the same, gauging the mood among the spectrum of political class he tendered an apology, demonstrating that he isn’t a rebellious, stubborn and westernized politician trying to poke fun at his countrymen. Also quickly moving out of the five -star accommodation and clarifying that he was footing the bill not from the government coffers but his hard earned money, is an affirmation to tow his party’s line of austerity.

Setting an example by living an austere life without frills and fancies is a very subjective issue. Certainly, the enthusiasm on display by holy cows taking to travel by trains and economy class is highly risk prone and in the same breath extremely inconveniencing to common people given the gun totting entourage that accompanies them as security shield. Putting life in jeopardy for the sake of austerity is very imprudent.

Moreover, cutting down on travelling expenses which amounts to a miniscule percentage of the total government spend, hardly makes an impact. It’s believed 80% of allocated government expenditure is lost in transit by the time it percolates down to actual masses. If by some mechanism, this drifting of huge chunk into corrupt hands can be checked and made to reach the true beneficiaries, calamities like drought, floods, earthquake etc can be tackled without the garb of austerity.

This would have a ripple effect in terms of addressing the endemic of corruption, elevating the socio-economic status of rural masses through various government funded schemes with entire allocated funds at disposal and sparing ripping apart of political class even if it entails tweeting messages in lighter vein.

Mr. Tharoor, you have brought in a refreshing trend of leaving your trail and being accessible to common man through Twitter. I only wish you continue the political journey and become a change agent in external affairs of this country too.