Away from the humdrum of road politics or a maddening crowd of television crews chasing him for quotes, Congress leader, author and Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor was a relaxed man at the Firstpost Salon. Sharing his views on a medley of issues from professional to personal aspects of his life, Tharoor kept his listeners all ears for over an hour that he spent with them at the venue.
From his views on cricket and demonstrating his singing skills to his perspective on the Modi sarkar, Indian media and the extremely controversial Sunanda Pushkar case, Tharoor answered each question asked at the Salon unhesitatingly.
Here are some of the most memorable moments from the Firstpost Salon with Shashi Tharoor:
On the Sunanda Pushkar case
Shashi Tharoor has been in the news for the last few months mainly because of the Sunanda Pushkar case. Arguably the most memorable moments of the Firstpost Salon were when Tharoor talked about his perspective on the case and what he thought about the way the issue was portrayed by some sections of the media.
Criticising certain sections of the media, Tharoor said, "I thought about taking legal action (against some media groups)." He added that the only reason he did not take legal action was because his lawyers advised him against it.
"Some deeply obnoxious anchors have taken it upon themselves to be not only the witness, but judge and executioner as well," Tharoor said. He also said that even if the police conclude their work and it is concluded in a court of law, there would be a lingering whiff of suspicion that would remain about the case against him.
"I knew I had done nothing wrong," he said, while explaining his silence following the controversy. He added that he was so shocked after his wife's death that he couldn't speak to anyone for three weeks.
"I have co-operated with the investigation throughout...I have even given the police access to my emails. I believe that in a fair-minded probe, there is no way that I will be found wanting," Tharoor said.
On Modi sarkar and achche din
"Achche din aane waale hain, abhi toh nahi aaye hain (Good days are yet to come, they certainly have not come now)," said a smiling Shashi Tharoor when asked by a member of the audience on his thoughts about 'achche din'.
Talking about NDA's foreign policy and Modi's frequent trips abroad, Tharoor said, "There is no doubt that Mr Modi has brought a lot of energy into the MEA." He quickly added that the Modi government's foreign policy was a success because of the continuity of the previous government's foreign policy rather than a change in the same.
"It is important to stress that there is almost an overwhelming amount of continuity in foreign policy...If the BJP has done the right thing, it is despite the positions they took when they were in the Opposition and it's something that the party's supporters should acknowledge," Tharoor said.
Tharoor also said that the recent statements made by Pakistan on the Lakhvi issue showed that "not a lot of research was done before the (Modi-Sharif) meeting at Ufa."
The Thiruvananthapuram MP called the notion of an empowered bureaucracy under the Modi government a "myth". "The gossip I'm hearing is that empowerment is a myth," he said. He said that he had heard that everything the bureaucrats did went to the PMO and they were just aiding an overburdened PMO.
He also said that political categorisation was peculiar in India and that BJP, in terms of its economic policy, was not right-wing. "BJP is a nativist party that isn't truly a right-wing party when it comes to economic policy," Tharoor said.
On the state of media in India
Tharoor's views on the Indian media were not just limited to his criticism of the way in which the Sunanda Pushkar case was covered. "We have a media culture now where breaking news is everything," he said.
Even as he talked about considering legal action against certain sections of the media, Tharoor said, "I would much rather have media direct our lives than courts directing us."
"What one wants is better journalism that is fair," he said. "I'm not the only victim of trial by media. There are many other victims."
"Journalists have come and told me that even they were forced to do what they were doing in the name of journalism by their seniors," Tharoor said, adding that those journalists also apologised to him for the questions that they were allegedly forced to ask.
He also said that the term of "cattle class" was purely a case of him using a term that was widely used in the West when asked about it by a journalist.
Tharoor also said that the hunger for TRPs or readership was not just limited to TV journalism but was also present in print journalism. He also talked about how there was a general lack of depth in the digital media these days. "There is a lack of depth in digital media. Paradoxically, digital media has no restriction of space," he said.
Tharoor also talked about how the digital media had given people a platform to express views openly while maintaining anonymity, which often led to trolls on the internet. "I'm not aware of any Congress troll," said a smiling Tharoor.
On his time at the UN, being a political outsider and Macaulayputra
Tharoor also spoke fondly of his time at the United Nations and said that he had learnt a lot from that experience and had been greatly influenced by it.
"I learnt a lot from my time at the UN," he said. Tharoor added that it influenced him a lot and there was a lot of pressure on him and his colleagues at the UN as sometimes, the "weight of a government" lied on them.
On being asked about how he felt about not being chosen the UN Secretary-General, Tharoor said that he had no regrets and always followed the Bhagvad Gita, in which one of the messages that he followed was to work without any expectations.
Tharoor also said that he did not consider himself to be an insider in politics because he did not have the kind of experience which most of the other politicians had. "I would never gain the level of acceptance as most of the others in politics. I'm not an insider," he said.
"I'm operating in a political world where 99 percent of the people have been active in politics for a very long time," Tharoor said.
On being asked whether he considered himself a Macaulay putra, Tharoor jokingly said, "Well I've heard the word."
"Some would argue that the concept of Macaulay putra is not authentic. But that doesn't mean nothing good comes out of it," he said. "I don't have any desire to identify myself as Macaulay putra. But the fact is that English is my first language."
On personal life, cricket and singing abilities
Finally, Tharoor very candidly spoke about some aspects of his personal life and even surprised the audience with his singing skills as he sang a couple of paragraphs of a song he says he last sang when he was in his early teens.
Answering a question about his thoughts on love and relationships, Tharoor said, "You never fall in love in a frivolous way, you fall in love in a serious way." He added that the sadness of the failure of his past relationships did not take away the value of the joy he got from those relationships.
He also said that he was not bad at imitating cricket commentators, thanks to his love of listening to cricket matches on radio. He also said he did not think test cricket was in the danger of dying out in today's times. "The number of eyeballs on a cricket match has gone up considerably," he said.
Tharoor also talked about his time at St Stephen's College in New Delhi, adding that he set up the Wodehouse Society in the college, which even allowed practical jokes after consent from the college.
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Updated Date: Jul 17, 2015 16:57:32 IST