A Schoolyard Spat


Tharoor & AiyarThe past month has seen so many changes that the mind spins while trying to make sense of it all. But in the midst of all this, it is heartening to see that some things remain the same – I refer to the pettiness of the very public argument by Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar against Mr. Shashi Tharoor.

I must admit that I am partial towards Tharoor, not because of any personal affiliation or because he has been brilliant as a minister – I just like his books. On the other hand, the decision is made easier because I never really liked Mani Shankar – he always comes across as a pompous know-it-all who likes to shoot his mouth of without ever thinking of the hypocrisy he spews.

It all started with an article by Shashi Tharoor for the Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shashi-tharoor/narendra-modi-shashi-tharoor_b_5434302.html. In the article, he reports on Mr. Modi’s surprisingly conciliatory approach as PM after a no-holds-barred campaign. In fact, Modi’s words after he was elected surprised more than just Shashi Tharoor – I was one of the surprised. Of course, as a Congressman, Mr. Tharoor cannot and will not give Modi a clean chit, so he tempers his praise of Modi’s initial days in office.

<snip>So does this all add up to a Modi 2.0, a very different figure in government from the ogre some of us had feared and demonised for years? It is still too early to tell, but the initial signs are encouraging. Prime Minister Modi would hardly be the first opposition leader to temper his views and conduct once in office, but there seems to be something more fundamental involved here.</snip>

In response to this Mani Shankar Aiyar wrote a blog article on the NDTV website – http://www.ndtv.com/article/opinion/mani-talk-will-the-real-shashi-tharoor-please-stand-up-537394?curl=1402295969.

The article itself without the background of the war between the two schoolmates is an interesting read. Either Mr. Aiyar has excellent command over the English language or he kept a thesaurus close by – either way I would like my kids to have the English teacher that taught these two guys. I found myself constantly referring to the dictionary to figure out the meaning of words such as – encomiums, unctuousness, deutero-, etc. I should certainly read more of Mr. Aiyar’s work to improve my vocabulary or did he write to impress – just because the man on the other side of the net was one of the most original of novel writers or all time?

He accuses Tharoor of doing a 360-degree turn when Tharoor has done no such thing. All he did was point out his surprise as Modi’s behavior post-election. On the other hand, Mr. Aiyar makes the folly that every school-going debater is warned against – do not bring Hitler into the picture if you want your argument to be taken seriously. That is not to say that Modi will not turn into another Hitler, it is just that it’s too early to say. In fact, Mr. Aiyar does exactly what he accuses Tharoor of – jumping to conclusions.

Yes, Mr. Modi dumped his child bride. Yes, he abandoned his mother. Yes, he presided over one of India’s most shameful moments. But it proves is that Modi does whatever is politically useful to him – irrespective of whether it is morally right or not. So if it is politically useful for him to develop the country and ensure that minorities are protected – he will do that.

At least he is in control. Mr. Aiyar and his leaders don’t even have that much. The last decade has shown us that the Congress party and its crop of Gandhis and Gandhi brown-noses are like passengers in a rollercoaster – with no control of direction, speed or destination.

I would like to see the Tharoor article as an Indian writing for a foreign audience and introducing them to his Prime Minister – who may very well be visiting them soon. The Aiyar rejoinder, however, smacks of someone working very hard to stay relevant to a conversation he was never part of from the beginning anyways.

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