Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Eleventh Commandment

Shashi Tharoor was a successful diplomat, is a bearable writer (when allowed more than 140 characters) and one of our few telegenic and coherent politicians. But what’s with the IPL shenanigans: is he merely foolish, or does he believe he is beyond reproach?

One could laugh at his being tone-deaf to the calls of his new profession – when you are in public life, it is not enough to do the right thing, you have to also be seen to be doing the right thing (the deluxe hotel residency facts were ‘made to look right’, post revelations); you’ve got to be somewhat more sensitive than openly mocking party decisions (cattle class and holy cows); and you’ve got to keep intra-ministry differences exactly that – intra-ministry. But hey, he’s learning on the job and we like him, so let all this be. It was wrong, but there are worse things to worry about (different from his fans who found nothing wrong with the cattle class tweet or living the high life).

But this IPL mess makes me wonder: is he actively plotting to get thrown out of politics? Has he collected enough material to write a sequel to The Great Indian Novel and would like to be left in peace? Because if this mess isn’t by design, he’s either plain stupid or is living in some hubristic la-la land. Or both? That’d make him the invincible twit.

Read his official statement – it is full of howlers. In (1), he says “...approached me for help and guidance...” (after the auction, this read “...was pleased to give Rendezvous Sports World my encouragement and blessings...”: blessings, I saw, and thought – good, he’s making an effort, learning the vernacular). In (7), he admits he spoke to Lalit Modi but presents a different version of the contents of his chat. (6) is a bizarre version of “No Comments” – here’s a lady you know very well, who is likely to be your spouse; she gains a reported Rs. 70 crore as “sweat equity” in this franchise; you admit (2) that your “... role in mentoring the consortium included several conversations with Mr Lalit Modi...”: why wouldn’t anyone on the sidelines believe that the payoff is for services rendered by you (and/or for your continued patronage and, yes, “blessings”), and not recompense for Ms Pushkar’s unknown contributions? Also, why Lalit Modi took this matter public (5) or what he should do – or not do – about revealing shareholdings in other IPL teams are irrelevant. He’s not in public life and need not be compelled to similar disclosure standards.

BJP’s talk of a CBI enquiry is balderdash. There’s nothing in this exchange that comes under the ambit of corruption, as defined in our laws. It is a transaction between private parties, the bidding was transparent, and indications that the Commissioner is not happy about who won suggests that it wasn’t Dr. Tharoor’s clout (such as it is) swung it Kochi’s way. The question isn’t “should Shashi Tharoor be prosecuted for corruption”?

However, it IS about what sort of people we want in public life. It is one thing to live with those from a different era who, by now, have shed any pretensions of propriety. But for these “21st Century Indians” in politics, who have made a fetish of their being “different” than the “average/ old-gen guy”, let’s not tolerate them. We’ll make the same mistake as did our previous generation – complicity of the silent – as the latest set in politics promises a new dawn, which will turn out as false as the last one.


CB Murali said...

Shasi Tharoor has come in like a breath of fresh air...he's taken the "er" away from twitter. There's never a dull moment moment with this guy. Let's hope he persists with his taste for his feet..they seem permanently stuck in his mouth. I'm not complaining...don't even have to make the effort to switch to the saas-bahu channels these days once you watch the news!

Makarand said...

Tharoor was one of the guys who I had some respect for.. I had hoped that an intellectual and diplomat in the ministry would be a great step forward for the Indian Political Scenario.. That respect is dwindling by the day! Can understand the tweets, the bloopers but underhand dealings? Why does he need to get into this?

When i think back and reflect that this was a man who was a serious contender for UN Secretary General, I shudder.. Then again, may be he would have been ok there.. After all it is the UN System - you dont really have to DO anything.. seem plausible and say the right things...

I agree with you (Nikhil) that he seems to be trying to get out of politics and back to his Great Indian Novel - to quote from that book "Dhritarashtra (Nehru) actually found himself courting arrest because his publishers were complaining that the next book was not coming out soon enough"...