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:
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.
Shashi Tharoor, a child of controversy http://t.co/572EXbRclk
— Niti Central (@NitiCentral) January 19, 2014
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|
|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|
By Sujata Garimella