Notwithstanding Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor’s apology for his “cattle class” travel remark, the Congress on Friday said it would take “appropriate action” against him at a suitable time and reiterated that the party condemned his comments.
“The Congress will take appropriate action at appropriate time,” party spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters here.
Asked about Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s demand for Mr. Tharoor’s resignation, Mr. Tewari said: “Such statements by Tharoor are bound to evoke reactions.”
Mr. Gehlot told reporters on Thursday night in Jaipur that “in my view he should tender his resignation as minister. It was unfortunate and unbecoming on his part to make such comments.”
Mr. Tewari said the Congress “reiterates what party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said on Wednesday, condemning Tharoor’s statements.”
The Congress spokesperson, Jayanthi Natarajan, termed the phrase as “unacceptable” and said Mr. Tharoor was perhaps not conscious of local sensitivities since he was new to Indian politics. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had also slammed him for the remarks.
Mr. Tharoor has also invited criticism back home from the leader of Opposition in Kerala assembly Oommen Chandy of the Congress. He told reporters in Delhi: “Political workers should behave like servants of the people and not their owners.”
The minister ran into trouble for a message he posted on the social networking site Twitter in which he said sarcastically in response to a query that he would travel “cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!”.
The minister who is in Liberia on an official visit tweeted late Thursday night that he had “learned belatedly of fuss over my tweet replying to journo’s query whether I would travel to Kerala in ‘cattle class’”.
He pointed out that the phrase “cattle class” was used in the journalist’s query, which he just repeated.
“It’s a silly expression but means no disrespect to economy travellers, only to airlines for herding us in like cattle. Many have misunderstood,” he tweeted.
He admitted that the phrase when translated into Malayalam sounded worse, especially if taken out of context. “To those hurt by the belief that my repeating the phrase showed contempt: sorry,” said Tharoor.
He also explained that the word “holy cows” was not referring to any individual. “Holy cows are NOT individuals but sacrosanct issues or principles that no one dares challenge. Wish critics would look it up.”
The minister said that he had learnt a lesson from the episode. “I now realise I should not assume people will appreciate humour. You should not give those who would wilfully distort your words an opportunity to do so.”
Mr. Tharoor also mentioned that he had excellent meetings with the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other dignitaries. He is the first minister in 38 years to visit the West African nation.
Mr. Tharoor, who looks after India’s external affairs in Africa and Middle East, is visiting Liberia and Ghana as an effort to improve bilateral ties with these countries.