Monday, April 6, 2009

High-profile candidate comes under fierce attack

Gulf Today

Of the 217 candidates seeking the 20 Lok Sabha seats from Kerala, there is one with a name that may be recognised beyond the Malayali diaspora: Shashi Tharoor, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations.

Tharoor, who quit the UN bureaucracy after losing to Ban Ki Moon in the election for the Secretary General's post in 2006, is the Congress candidate in the Thiruvananthapuram constituency.

His website describes him as an author, peace-keeper, refugee worker and human rights activist and the recipient of several awards, including a Commonwealth Writers Award and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honour for Overseas Indians.

In 1998, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, named him a "global leader of tomorrow" As it happens, Tharoor is also the one who has attracted the most vicious attack.

His detractors include, apart from the Left Democratic Front, various Islamic groups and anti-Coca Cola agitators.

Born in London of non-resident Keralite parents, he has spent all his life outside the state.

After higher education in the US, he joined the UN service in 1978, at the age of 22, and went on to become its youngest Under Secretary General.

Tharoor was India's official nominee for the Secretary General's post.

Many considered the government's decision to sponsor him impolitic.

The post has never gone to a person from a big country and the decision to seek the post for an Indian was inconsistent with the country's known desire for a place in an expanded Security Council.

Since leaving the UN, Tharoor has been spending time in New York, Dubai and Kerala.

Afras Ventures, a Dubai firm, of which he is the chairman, has taken up educational activity in Kerala with a view to helping migrant jobseekers to upgrade their skills.

Tharoor publicly expressed his desire to enter parliament last year. The Congress party in the state offered little encouragement. However, the national leadership picked him for the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram seat.

Shashi Tharoor is a candidate who will appeal to large sections of the educated middle class voters of Thiruvananthapuram, especially those who loathe the common variety of politicians.

This constituency had warmly welcomed the late VK Krishna Menon, who, like Tharoor, had spent most of his life outside the state, after being rejected by Mumbai.

Some young bloggers are among the non-party voters who have come forward to support Tharoor. They met the candidate and came away impressed with his vision for the city and the state.

But a candidate cannot limit his appeal to any one section. So, Tharoor, donning traditional Kerala costumes, has been sweating it out in the open, wooing the likes of slum-dwellers and fisher folks.

Thiruvananthapuram is a constituency which one cannot take for granted. Former chief minister Pattom Thanu Pillai (PSP), former Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary MN Govindan Nair and poet ONV Kurup are among those whom the city's voters have rejected in the past.

The seat, which has changed hands several times, has been with the CPI since 2004. The party's district secretary, P. Ramachandran Nair, is the candidate this time.

The main thrust of the Left Democratic Front's attack on Tharoor is that he is pro-American and pro-Israel.

Being pro-American is a cardinal sin in the eyes of Left supporters and being pro-Israel is an equally cardinal sin in the eyes of Muslims. Tharoor has sought to rebut the charge of being pro-American by pointing out that it was the US which had blocked his election as the UN chief executive.

To counter the charge of being pro-Israel, he is distributing an article he had written declaring that a sovereign Palestine state was his dream and circulating photographs he had taken with Yasser Arafat.

As a candidate handpicked by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor is seen as a likely central minister in the event of the party heading the next government.

This gives him a natural advantage over his rivals, who include two former state ministers, A. Neelalohithadasan Nadar (Bahujan Samaj Party) and MP Gangadharan (Nationalist Congress Party). Who would not like his representative to be a minister?
That Tharoor may become a minister is what worries those who have been agitating against the Coca Cola plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district. He is a member of an advisery committee of a foundation set up by the Coca Cola company for charitable activities.

While defending his association with the company's charitable work, he also publicly endorsed its position on its disputes with the Plachimada agitators.

1 comment:

R.Sajan said...

Trivandrum must defeat Tharoor. Anything else would be un-Malayali-like. How can we ever vote someone who has proved himself to be more successful and has achieved more than us?
Lazy, envious and cowardly-to-bullies, no Malayali can stand another's success.
Besides, only if we defeat Tharoor would Israel get afraid and stop shooting at Palestine. Palestine is more important to Trivandrum than their own problems.