Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor has criticised the Gujarat government’s decision to ban the book Jinnah: India-Partition Independence written by former Minister for External Affairs, Jaswant Singh.

In an informal chat with media persons who met him here, Mr. Tharoor said all issues concerned with free India should be debated in the public realm. The ban on the book amounts to interference in the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution, he said.

He compared the outcomes of two books, one on Jinnah by Jaswant Singh and the other, his own work, India: From Midnight to Millennium and Beyond in which, he said, he had made critical comments about Sonia Gandhi and other members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

The Congress party not only gave me a ticket to contest the last Parliament elections, it entrusted me with a key portfolio (of Minister of State for External Affairs). Mr. Tharoor said there were attempts to whip up passions during the run-up to elections by those who wanted to deny him a ticket. His critical remarks were used during the election campaign too, he said. “But the people have rejected such campaigns,” as was evidenced by his victory, he said.

To a question, Mr. Tharoor said his opinion about Ms Gandhi had changed since he had made the critical comments. “Sonia Gandhi of 1997 is not the Sonia Gandhi of 2009,” he said.

The Minister said he would not be visiting the Nair Service Society (NSS) headquarters. While he had no problems to sort out with the NSS, it had some problems with the Congress party. He would be happy to visit NSS headquarters once these problems were sorted out, he said.

Later, speaking at the inauguration of the Three Year Action Plan launched by Changanassery Social Service Society (CHASS), an NGO run by the Archdiocese of Changanassery, Mr Tharoor cautioned that community welfare service should not end up as communal service. He lauded the activities of the CHASS. Mr. Tharoor called on the Archbishop of Changanassery and had lunch at the Bishop’s House.

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