Days after the BJP made grand stride in Uttar Pradesh polls and forming their governments quite cunningly, in the states like Goa and Manipur where they came second only to Congress, a friend in my Facebook asked a question, rather quite ragingly, Why Tharoor, a Congress MP and former diplomat, is making so much noise even amid their failures?
He was, well, referring to a bill Dr Sashi Tharoor had introduced in the parliament and viral petition that propped him as the PM candidate of Congress in the coming 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It was few hours that petition gone online that he had asked me such a question. The reply to him from me was rather boisterous. I have asked him to merit the point raised by Tharoor in the bill rather than going against it to make the faulty claim that he had set his ambition around becoming the next Prime Minister of India.
The question well asked has its share of importance in the growing political condition where BJP is flaunting Modi and his ‘so-people-friendly’ policies as the reasons behind the people of all the four states (excluding Punjab) have given a mandate in favour of him. Though the mandates in Goa and Manipur went against them they have lured other party MLAs to their fore to form respective governments there.
That may well be true to the time at least that BJP’s ‘policies’, certainly not the welfare schemes, have fetched them a substantial gain in the caste-ridden politics of the country.
However, the question that has made the deeper concern to me is that Congress is left with no choice for a leadership to fight the next election that would be in due within less than three years from now. They haven’t even made any strategic progress to even stop the juggernaut of the BJP ride.
In this particularly interesting context that Tharoor, through the petition, has been propped as the prime ministerial candidate in the next elections. The petitioner, who is from Tharoor’s parliament constituency of Thiruvananthapuram, has found that India needs a candidate like him to fight out the polarizing stride of communal politics in the country.
He might have found that the sudden inspiration for the petition have come following the discussions and debates the former diplomat has spearheaded through his famous Oxford talk titled ‘Why Britain does owe reparations to India”. Moreover, the many videos that have been uploaded on Youtube with Tharoor as theme have one topic echoed in it that of Whether British need to be apologetical to India for looting its wealth through their rapacious rule for more than 200 years. The subsequent success of the book dealing the cause in detail in Tharoor’s new book ,“Era of Darkness”, might have brought the petitioner and those 10,000 who have signed into such a conclusion.
Tharoor, in his new book, made his claims more reasonable and believable with the help of historical facts. The book also put the general notion of many Indians that the British Raj though after many years of loot has given us a valuable democratic system and many other infrastructures that veered us into a speedy modernisation into questioning.
Tharoor is a man of upscale ambitions and has seen the ‘world’ more than any of the leaders in the present leadership of the Indian National Congress. Those credentials won’t be enough for him to make a popular leader but definitely make him a leader of wise, wit, and intelligence.
The petition has made, defiantly, the case further debatable in the Indian polity. It is not about Tharoor becoming the Prime Minister but the significant question of whether Congress can find a valuable leader among their ranks who could fight for the cause of social coherence in the country in contrary to their decade-long soft stand on communal politics.
Tharoor through a Facebook post recently disowned and made it clear that he has no such hopes of becoming Prime Minister of India (at least for the time being).
In fact, it is for the cause of social harmony that the bill the MP has raised recently in the Parliament should be worth of any discussion at this point of time rather than placing the discussion forlornly around Tharoor as the next prime minister.
Tharoor made the introduction of Anti-discrimination and Equality Bill in the parliament a few days ago. Not much discussion was being made into the topic as the country was too much immersed in discussing the BJP ‘victories’ and in turn got only the attention to that petition.
This was, in fact, one of the rarest and the most needy among the bills the Indian democracy had been long eluded with for many years. The bill, if it gets passed in the parliament of India, would significantly impact the lives of millions of people across the country. The passing of it has to be seen in the coming days since the Modi government enjoys a large share of majority in the Lok Sabha and their recent decision to cut the UGC funds for Social Discrimination Research Centres Across the country has made it formidable that the hopes of getting it passed are likelier.
Tharoor’s voice is the only among minority Congress leadership echoing the concerns of the marginalized recently.
Tharoor has two years ago made a rare exception of Indian MPs for introducing a bill to decriminalise gay sex relationship. He wanted an amendment to the section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalises intercourse “against the order of nature”. The bill was in that sense would have been epochal since India has this archaic law, from the colonial rule, is invoked to harass, intimidate, extort and penalize sexual minorities in India. The bill failed two times. It was voted by the Lok Sabha at the introduction state itself with the second time with a more lopsided margin.
The recent bill was drafted in consultation with Dr Tarunabh Khaitan, an Associate Professor in Law at Wadham College, Oxford, laments the fact that India is among the few democratic countries which still does not have an anti-discrimination law.
Even after freeing ourselves from the clutches of the colonial rule for the last seven decades, the Indians, mostly from the lower strata of life, haven’t safely had honoured with a fair and objective treatment. Oppression and discrimination are in different lethal forms present in the country like Dalits being beaten in broad daylight in public for skinning cows, a 52-year-old man being beaten to death for storing his food of choice in his house, Rohit Vemula, a Dalit research scholar, is being persecuted and forced to take his life in protest against the prevailing system. And the most recent among them is the suicide of J Muthukrishnan, a JNU Scholar, who hanged himself, few days after the bill was made in the parliament.
Beyond it being propping Tharoor as prime minister, it would be worth for the petitioners to go for a movement that would ensure the safe passage of this bill. It would bring progressive changes in the lives of many millions including ourselves.