Congress MP Shashi Tharoor at a workshop on Sustainable Development Goals for MPs and Ministers under the Speakers Research Initiative in New Delhi, July 23. (Shirish Shete | PTI)
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who got an earful from his party chief Sonia Gandhi, July 22, received accolades from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, July 23, for his skills in public speaking, leaving political tongues wagging on the timing of the praise.
Modi showered praise on Tharoor, the only Congress MP present at a function organized by the Lok Sabha Speaker for MPs, while talking about the need for free airing of views on national issues irrespective of the party affiliations.
“Oxford debate has a huge significance. It is good that Shashi ji was there…. What he spoke there reflected the sentiments of the citizens of India,” he said while inaugurating a workshop on the Speaker’s Research Initiative to train MPs on various subjects of global importance.
The praise for Tharoor, the lone Congress MP present at the function, came a day after he was snubbed by his party chief for the leak of his remarks counseling Congress against disruption of Parliament over scams.
To add to Congress’ discomfort, words of praise for Tharoor also came from Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who said his speech at the Oxford University was appreciated by all. “You (Tharoor) had spoken from your heart,” she said.
Tharoor later acknowledged Modi’s praise for him saying he (Modi) spoke with a large heart. Only yesterday, he was snubbed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi for his remarks disapproving of disruptions in Parliament.
Modi pointed out that Tharoor’s speech, in which he had demanded reparation payments from the UK to India for 200 years of its colonial rule, has gone viral on YouTube.
He said the significance of Tharoor’s speech lay in the timing and place, which many times becomes a “turning point” of events.
“It is important what we leave behind at the right place.
The occasion is also important,” he said as the Kerala MP, seated in the front row, acknowledged Modi’s remarks with a smile.
In his speech, Modi also referred to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who had coined the famous slogan ‘freedom is our birth right’ during the Independence movement.
“That was impromptu. That was the voice from within. These words ring loud even today” he said of Tilak’s famous quote.
The Congress MP was among the few non-BJP MPs present in the gathering that included veteran Parliamentarian L.K. Advani, ministers and MPs belonging to BJP and its allies.
Tharoor had found himself in problems over his praise of Modi on a few occasions ever since he came to power last year and attracted criticism within the party for that.
He had accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to join the ‘Clean India’ campaign and had recently praised Modi’s campaign on yoga and had also remarked that the Prime Minister leaves a positive impact on the countries he visits though he follows the UPA policies.
Later when asked by reporters to comment on Modi’s praise, he said, “I am grateful. He (Modi) was kind enough. He spoke with a large heart.”
When his attention was drawn to the fact that he was the only MP from Congress at attend the program, Tharoor said he had not noticed it. He said he attended the program as he had got the invitation from the host – the Speaker.
At the same time, he said MPs from other parties were also present at the event.
Tharoor, who was dropped from the panel of Congress spokespersons some time back for praising Modi, had often rubbed his party on the wrong side with his praise of Modi on a few occasions.
He had accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to join the ‘Clean India’ campaign and had recently praised Modi’s campaign on yoga. He had also remarked that the Prime Minister leaves a positive impact on the countries he visits though he follows the UPA policies.
At the Congress briefing, party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad downplayed questions on Prime Minister’s praise for Tharoor.
Azad, who is the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said that only last week the Prime Minister had praised him at a function in Jammu.
He said that Congress’ fight with the Prime Minister and the BJP chief ministers was not “personal but on principles.”
Later in a tweet, Tharoor while referring to the Congress’ demand for resignations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over Lalit Modi row and that of Madhya Pradesah Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan over Vyapam scam said that despite the praise, standards of integrity must be upheld.
“Absolutely gracious of @narendramodi ji but yes, @INCIndia’s demands remain: Standards of integrity must be upheld,” he said.
Another senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Sachin Pilot had also tweeted “Very kind of @narendramodi Ji to praise @ShashiTharoor in Parliament but let’s move on to real issues now. We still call for resignations!”