Congress spokesperson Shashi Tharoor on Thursday found himself in the midst of a controversy after he recently wrote on the Huffington Post website that it would be “churlish” if his party did not take note of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to sound gracious and accommodative and reinvent himself from a “hate figure into an avatar of modernity and progress”.
Another party spokesperson, Shobha Oza, found herself in a spot when asked whether the party agreed with Mr. Tharoor’s views. “The views expressed by Shashi Tharoor about Modi and the government are his personal views,” she responded, adding cautiously, “As a party, it is too early for us to express any view. It is too early to comment on the functioning of the government.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Tharoor made a veiled attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party government while speaking on the murder of Mohsin Sadiq, an IT professional who was beaten to death in Pune by Hindu Rashtra Sena members: “I have been appreciative publicly of the very conciliatory and inclusive language that we have heard from Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the election, but I would say respectfully to him… that a clear message has not reached everybody. Perhaps a message needs to be... sent down to people of a certain political persuasion that the answer to an opinion is another opinion — it is not violence; seven people going around claiming in the name of a religion the life of another human being. I happen to practise that religion myself. I am ashamed that these people can use my Hinduism as a justification for assaulting somebody for what he has done and said on Facebook.”
The members of the Congress, which has suffered a massive defeat in the recent Lok Sabha polls, are not quite sure how to deal with the BJP: one view is that the party should not attack the ruling party unless it has a watertight case as a daily attack would amount to what Mr. Tharoor describes as churlishness. The other feels that it should keep the pressure on the BJP.
Indeed, there have been mixed views among Congressmen regarding the criticism the party levelled against Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s lack of educational qualifications, as it backfired on the party with BJP leaders demanding to know the educational qualifications of the Congress’s own leaders. It was only later that the party was able to dig out two contradictory affidavits filed by Ms. Irani but, by then, the damage had been done.
On Wednesday, Ms. Oza spoke on the growing incidence of rape in the BJP-ruled States of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which have not received the sort of media attention that Uttar Pradesh has. She drew attention to two rapes that had taken place in Rajasthan’s Jhalawar, from where the State’s Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje comes, as well as a statement made by Babulal Gaur, the Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, which tops the country in the incidence of rape: Mr. Gaur reportedly said it was not possible for any government to prevent rape as rapists were not in the habit of announcing their intentions before committing a crime. It was best, he said, that women learnt to protect themselves.