NEW DELHI, October 14: The Congress on Monday dropped its former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor from the party’s panel of spokespersons in view of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee’s demand for disciplinary action against him for accepting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to a select panel of prominent personalities to advocate the Swachh Bharat Mission.
The decision to drop Mr. Tharoor from the panel of spokespersons was taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi as per the recommendations of the party’s Disciplinary Action Committee. This is the second time the Congress central leadership has taken action against him in his five-and-a-half year association with the party. As of now, he retains chairmanship of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs. The KPCC had sought action against him last Wednesday for his repeated statements appreciating Mr. Modi.
While the Thiruvananthapuram MP had sought to hold his ground against the KPCC at first by posting tweets mocking his detractors, he has not commented on the issue since the Kerala unit formally sought disciplinary action against him last Wednesday.
Prior to that, he had posted a series of tweets explaining his reason for accepting the invitation and rejected the charge of cosying up to the Bharatiya Janata Party. “My 30-year paper trail of published writings is equal to my idea of India and my profound belief in India’s pluralism. Being receptive to specific statements or actions of BJP leaders does not remotely imply acceptance of the party’s core Hindutva agenda…’’
He also flagged the blog he had penned in response to the invitation to join the Clean India Campaign. “A clean India would benefit all of us, and I am delighted to support the Prime Minister’s initiative. At the same time, … I am not a fan of tokenism, and I was worried the campaign would descend to symbolic photo opportunities for grandees who would never touch a broom again after October 2.’’
Describing Mr. Modi using the Prime Minister’s position to push the campaign as akin to the American “bully pulpit’’, Mr. Tharoor said the Mission was an attempt to give fillip to a national effort of successive governments. In particular, he flagged the Rural Sanitation Programme of the Congress which was renamed the Total Sanitation Programme by the Vajpayee Government.
“The UPA government in 2012 subsumed that into a Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, with the objective of making the nation Open Defecation Free by 2022. Modiji, who acknowledged the work of previous governments, has advanced the UPA’s deadline by three years and given the effort a national visibility that sanitation has not enjoyed before,’’ Mr. Tharoor had blogged.
In a blog on October 1 titled “Modiji got.a little more than `Kem Chho’ in Washington’’, Mr. Tharoor wrote: “Fresh from his triumphant visit to New York, the new Indian Prime Minister appears to have cut something less of a swathe through the American capital…. After the near-hysteria that greeted Mr. Modi in New York, Washington was a sobering reminder that the really hard work of building a strategic partnership requires a lot more than skilful public relations.’’