New Delhi: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday urged his party to think why it won less than 20% votes in the last elections while the BJP managed to increase its vote share from 31% to 37% over the last five years. He was replying to the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), which had sought an explanation after Tharoor expressed support for party colleague Jairam Ramesh who had publicly declared that it is wrong to “demonise Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.
“Modi has done little worth praising. But he has been effective in raising his vote percentage across India from 31% in 2014 to 37% in 2019, and as a party which stayed at around 19% in both elections, we in the Congress need to make an effort to understand why,” Tharoor wrote to KPCC President Mullapally Ramachandran who had sent him the notice.
“Clearly enough voters thought he was delivering something for them -- we need to acknowledge that, but point out its limitations: yes, he built toilets, but 60% of them don't have running water; yes, he gave poor rural women gas cylinders, but 92% of them can't afford refills. But if we act as if he has done nothing, however flawed, and people still voted for him, then we are saying that people are stupid, which is not a position that wins you votes.”
"I have been a strong critic of the Modi government and I hope a constructive one," he wrote.
Tharoor and party colleague Abhishek Manu Singhvi had extended support for Ramesh's statement that said "demonising" Modi was "wrong" and the prime minister should be praised for doing the right things.
"As you know, I have argued for six years now that Narendra Modi should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, which would add credibility to our criticisms whenever he errs. I welcome others in opposition coming around to a view for which I was excoriated at the time," Tharoor had earlier said.
Ramachandran in his email to Tharoor, who is abroad, had stated that the Congress stand on Modi was explained by the party president during the 75th birth anniversary celebrations of Rajiv Gandhi.
"Modi government is a failure in all fields. Even the NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman had said that the country is going through the worst economic crisis since independence. The National Sample Survey Organisation has said the worst unemployment crisis in last 45 years has gripped the country. While the country has been going through such a crisis, justifying the Prime Minister was unfortunate," the state congress chief said.
In his response, Tharoor wanted Ramachandran to point out one other leader from the state who had made at least 10% of his efforts to study, research and oppose the Modi government on every bill introduced.
"On the contrary, I would urge you to look at the Parliament debates of the recently-concluded eight-week session of the Lok Sabha and find me one leader from our state who has made 10% of the effort I made to study, research, anticipate and oppose the Modi government on every bill they sought to introduce against the spirit of our Constitution and the values of the Congress party," Tharoor wrote.
The Congress leader said he had intervened more than 50 times in parliament and had spoken against 17 Bills with "courage and conviction".
"Can any of my critics from Kerala say they have done so? Who on earth can credibly accuse me of a 'volte face' from the stand I took when I sat alongside you in the last Lok Sabha?" he asked. "I have used the power of my pen and my credibility as an author to write the most comprehensive, and most successful, critique of the Modi government's first term, The Paradoxical Prime Minister. This is not the work of someone who seeks to 'justify' Mr Modi in any shape or form."
The Thiruvananthapuram MP took to Twitter on Tuesday to defend his stance, saying that his fellow Congressmen should respect his approach even if they do not agree with it.
I've been a strong critic of the Modi government, & i hope a constructive one. My staunch defence of inclusive values& constitutional principles has won me 3 elections. I urge my fellow Congressmen to respect my approach even when they don't agree with it:https://t.co/nqX7COeyim— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) August 27, 2019
UDF (United Democratic Front) Convenor and Chalakudy MP Benny Behanan had also criticised Tharoor and said that the duty of Congress leaders and workers is not to praise Modi. "The party has a clear stand on this. We are not opposing Modi personally but when we are opposing a government on policies, naturally the PM will also be criticised. The AICC has to take a decision regarding what action needs to be taken against such leaders," he said.
Congress MP TN Prathapan has also written a letter to party president Sonia Gandhi expressing his disappointment over statements made by various party leaders. He has requested Gandhi to urge all leaders to present a strong discourse against fascism.