Shashi Tharoor has mostly been in the news over some controversy or the other. There is however a lot more to this man than controversies, in terms of awards and achievements.

Shashi Tharoor, the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, seems to be a special favourite of the God of Controversies (if there is any such God). Less in news for any work he does, Tharoor manages to stay in the public eye for controversies ranging from nonsensical to nasty. A part of the Indian political jungle for a mere 4 to 5 years now (since 2009; always with Congress), he is surely one of the most watched politicians (reportedly he is the first Indian celebrity to have got 100,000 followers on Twitter – as of now the number of followers on his Twitter account shows over 2 million!). Before getting to know the man, let’s look at the news he makes:

Shashi Tharoor WEF 1 206x300 Shashi Tharoor  Controversys Favorite Child.
January 2014: Third wife Sunanda Pushkar found dead in a hotel room. Days before this death were controversial Twitter exchanges between Tharoor and a Pakistani journalist allegedly having an affair and publicly airing it. Tharoor said that his account had been hacked. Barely had his statement about his account being hacked come that came news of Sunanda Pushkar’s untimely and unnatural death. In the speculations that followed out tumbled skeletons about the marriage having had problems; of the couple having a loud fight in a flight hours before the death etc. The cause of the death is still not confirmed, but Congress ally NCP and opposition BJP have asked for Tharoor’s resignation on moral grounds while the probe is on.

2009 – 2010: IPL Controversy: Lalit Modi leaked news of the Kochi IPL team suggesting that Tharoor had made financial gains and equity in the franchise using Sunanda Pushkar as his proxy. Following the ensuing babaal Tharoor had to resign from his post as the Minister of State for External Affairs on April 18, 2010. Tweet Cattle Class and Holy Cows Controversy:  Tharoor’s tweets using idioms of the English language have created a storm in the teacup for being misunderstood (deliberately or otherwise). The first was soon after he was elected and Congress had declared an austerity drive. In response to a question on whether he would travel by economy, he had tweeted: “Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with our holy cows”. This tweet had caused uproar for likening the common traveler with cattle (“cattle class”) and for insulting insinuations about Sonia and Rahul Gandhi (“holy cows”). Some members of the Congress had publicly denounced and distanced themselves from the newly elected Member of Parliament.

In the past, Tharoor had also declared that Indian politicians had no sense of humour whatsoever. Another opinion that wasn’t either favourably or objectively received.

But controversies are not all that maketh this man. Tharoor has been a person of achievement culminating in a run for the Secretay-Generalship of the United Nations (UN) in 2007 (where he was second in the reckoning – losing to the ultimate winner, Ban-Ki-Moon and subsequently resigning). He was with the UN from 1978 to 2007 holding responsible positions and successfully heading important offices. This in itself is notable and is further enhanced by his literary accomplishments. Author of about 14 books, including fiction, non-fiction and illustrated books, Tharoor has also been a journalist and a columnist of not meager standing. He writes a monthly column that is published in approximately 80 newspapers around the world.

Tharoor has been often lauded and awarded – but like his controversies, his awards too range from the trivial to the impressive:



1976 Rajika Kripalani Young Journalist Award for the Best Indian Journalist under 30
1990 Federation of Indian Publishers’ Hindustan Times Literary Award for the Best Book of the Year for The Great Indian Novel
1991 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Best Book of the Year in the Eurasian Region for The Great Indian Novel
  • Excelsior Award for excellence in literature
  • Named Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
2000 Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in International Affairs from the University of Puget Sound
2004 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman India’s highest honour for non-resident Indians (did not accept it at that time due to UN rules; but went on to claim it in 2007 after resigning from the UN.
2008 Conferred Doctorate Honoris Causa by the University of Bucharest, Romania
  • Zakir Hussain Memorial “Pride of India” Award
  • GQ’s Inspiration of the Year Award
  • Hakim Khan Sur Award for National Integration from the Maharana of Udaipur
  • Sarva Deshiya Prathibha award from the Pazhassiraja Charitable Trust, Kozhikode
  • New Age Politician of the Year Award from NDTV
  • IILM Distinguished Global Thinker Award
  • Digital person of the year from Indian Digital Media Awards (IDMA)
  • Sree Narayan Guru Global Secular and Peace Award
  • Person of the Year from PETA


By Sujata Garimella

Also See:
Sympathy, Not Mortification Is The Need Of The Moment
The Love Story that Ended Abruptly

Image Source: By World Economic Forum [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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