April 19, 2010

Being Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor successfully navigated the intricate waters of international diplomacy for more than 30 years.

However, he finds the waters of Indian politics to be rather murky.

Tharoor’s undoing has been restlessness to a certain extent. He has tended to assume that being modern and transparent in a democracy bursting with youngsters can only be the right thing to do. However, India is more complex than that. Perhaps, Tharoor needs to re-absorb the lessons that Nehru mentions in his Discovery of India. India’s roots stretch back thousands of years into antiquity. Though Indians might appear to have adopted all the tools and benefits of modern technology — such as cell phones and airplanes, etc. — that does not mean that Indians have foregone their ancient heritages.

So, Indians continue on with their archaic ways of worshipping gods and ‘sacrificing’ animals as the occasion requires.

Indians continue to practice the age-old ‘custom’ of dowry in a non-so-subtle manner and casteism is all-pervasive.

Indians are well-versed with the art of implementing the law only in letter but not in spirit.

So, as per the statute books, seeking dowry is a criminal offense. Well, so it is.

In the realm of politics, India is an odd sort of democracy. Surely, however, India is not a meritocracy.

So, Tharoor’s case might have been one of overconfidence at his own obvious superiority compared to the run of the mill leaders.

While urban Indian youngsters might have taken to tweeting with a vengeance, the fact remains that India is an overwhelmingly poor country where hundreds of millions are still without basic sanitation, safe drinking water, or electricity. India is surely home to the largest number of illiterate people in the world.

The simple fact is that a Member of Parliament is elected from a particular constituency. Therefore, Tharoor’s popularity in the Twitterverse is of no use whatsoever when it comes to his strength or weakness as an MP candidate. As such, he should realize that he is someone without any political base whatsoever.

As such, he might well have been better advised to devote more energy to building such a base. But perhaps that’s not his ‘core’ strength.

Perhaps, he should become one of those ministers who are perennial members of the Rajya Sabha and never get elected to the Lok Sabha.

Remember that Pranab Mukherjee belonged to that club until pretty recently.

And the PM of India has never been elected to the Lower House. Speaks volumes but that’s a different story.

One positive aspect of this is how flexible Indian democracy is.

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