Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s refusal to oppose the K-Rail (SilverLine) project has arguably put a dampener on the United Democratic Front’s (UDF) impending Statewide agitation against the Pinarayi Vijayan government’s flagship semi-high-speed railway project.
Mr. Tharoor has declined to sign a petition by Opposition MPs seeking to stop the land acquisition and allied works for the scheme. The MPs have sought a directive from the Centre to stop the State from forging ahead with SilverLine. They have addressed the petition to Union Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnav.
At ‘variance’ with KPCC
Mr. Tharoor appears to have further threatened his standing with the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) by a tweet that seems to endorse the developmental activities of the Left Democratic Front government. After meeting Mr. Vijayan at a private function on Thursday, Mr. Tharoor tweeted: “Enjoyed discussing Kerala’s development with CM@vijayanpinarayi. On some issues, it is necessary to put political differences aside & get on with growth. The young people of our State deserve opportunities that the current economic situation does not offer them”.
The tweet immediately drew flak from top Congress leaders. Former KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran said Mr. Tharoor had made a habit of putting the Congress in a spot.
“Tharoor may be a diplomat, writer and orator. But he is foremost a Congress worker. The MP has to tow the party line. Or else, the high command should discipline him,” Mr. Ramachandran said.
UDF stand ‘undermined’
Mr. Ramachandran said Mr. Tharoor’s statement has undermined the UDF’s studied position on K-Rail and advantaged Mr. Vijayan.
Breaking with party line is not new to Mr. Tharoor. Earlier, he had endorsed an allegedly pro-Bharatiya Janata Party private group’s takeover of the Thiruvananthapuram international airport against the KPCC’s official line. He is also a member of the G-23 group of leaders who have batted for organisational elections in the party. Mr. Tharoor has reportedly demurred signing the UDF petition purportedly to study the SilverLine’s economic and environmental viability.
However, Mr. Ramachandran refused to subscribe to the view. “Even children in Kerala know K-Rail does not augur well for the State,” he said.
The government has welcomed Mr. Tharoor’s stance. Industries Minister P. Rajeeve said it reflected public opinion. Kerala development should remain above partisan politics.
KPCC protest today
KPCC president K. Sudhakaran is scheduled to inaugurate the Statewide anti-SilverLine campaign here on Saturday. He was likely to seek an explanation from Mr. Tharoor. Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the party would examine Mr. Tharoor’s statement.