In trouble recently for his “cattle class” tweets, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor wants more Indian politicians to use the networking platform, but regrets the controversy surrounding him might have discouraged them.
Speaking on an online radio show here, Mr. Tharoor said Twitter was a useful way to get a peek inside the work-life of an elected leader, and said he would like to see more Indians tweeting.
“I would like to see more Indians using this very attractive interactive broadcast platform to get their thoughts out there,” said Mr. Tharoor, who currently has more than three lakh followers, the largest in the country.
The minister, who had recently courted trouble for referring to economy travellers as “cattle class,” on one of his tweets, however, admitted that the controversy might discourage his colleagues from trying out this handy tool.
“My only regret is that this whole unseemly controversy might dissuade a number of politicians who are otherwise curious or interested in emulating me from doing so because they fear they somehow maybe doing something that will get them into the kind of trouble that I got into,” he told the show hosted by eminent Indian-American scribe Sree Sreenivasan.
Mr. Tharoor said many of his followers had told him that Twitter was a useful way to get a peek inside the work-life of their elected leader and wanted other politicians use it.
“As the Internet gains ground more and more in India, I think those numbers will go up in India,” Tharoor said.
On the show, he candidly discussed the recent storm surrounding his tweets and the lessons he had drawn from it as a political beginner in India.
“One of the things I’ve learned being in Indian politics as a newcomer that it’s not enough for me to know what I know or be confident in what I intend to say... I have to constantly ask myself what might other people either wilfully or unwittingly choose to misunderstand,” said the former U.N. diplomat, who was in New York on an official visit.
“That does put a bit of a dampener on the freedom of expression but its necessary for a politician in a fishbowl, multilingual, pluralist democracy like India,” he added.
Keeping this experience in mind, the minister noted he would continue to use Twitter as a means to network with his constituents, and ensure that the correct meaning of his words was registered with the public.
Quoting Shakespeare he said: “The success of a jester lies not in the tongue of teller but the ear of the hearer.”