Jairam Ramesh, former Union environment minister, said at a book launch function a week ago that the government model of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not a completely negative story and ‘demonising’ him did not help the opposition. Abhishek Singhvi and Shashi Tharoor endorsed the statement of Ramesh. It did not upset the Congress high command. The leadership of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee saw in it an opportunity to get even with Tharoor, three-time elected member of Parliament from the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram constituency, and quickly served him a show-cause notice, ignoring Ramesh and Singhvi.

It only exposed the petty jealousies and disunity among the KPCC members. They had to remain ‘satisfied’ with the prompt explanation offered by Tharoor. He had said in his tweet, “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 criticism and whenever he errs…I welcome others in opposition coming around to a view for which I was excoriated at the time.”

In his reply to the showcause notice Tharoor said that he had been a strong, constructive critic of the Modi government and that he had used the power of his pen and his credibility as an author to write the most comprehensive and most successful critique of the Modi government’s first term, The Paradoxical Prime Minister. It was not the work of someone who sought to justify Modi in any shape or form. Though Shashi Tharoor’s parents hail from Palakkad in Kerala, he was born in London and brought up in Kolkata and spent a good part of his adult life in the USA.

The government of India sponsored him to contest for the UN Secretary-General in 2007. After the unsuccessful bid he returned to India and joined the Congress. Sonia Gandhi selected him to contest the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat in 2009. The KPCC considered him an outsider and the Thiruvananthapuram district Congress workers did everything possible to sabotage his maiden election campaign. They distributed selective excerpts from his earlier book India, From Midnight to Millennium to prove that he was not an admirer of the Congress.

The Thiruvananthapuram seat had been a Left stronghold and Tharoor had a tough time winning over the confidence of the people with his limited fluency in Malayalam. To the surprise of the local Congress leaders, he won the seat. Soon he established himself as a popular leader winning over almost all sections of the Thiruvananthapuram electorate by undertaking several welfare and development schemes.

His re-election in 2014 was assured but in 2019 he had the uphill task of contesting against BJP strongman Kummanam Rajasekharan and C Divakaran of the CPI. KPCC president Mullapally Ramachandran and the Congress Legislature Party leader Ramesh Chennithala, aspirants for the Chief Minister’s post in 2021, view Tharoor as a potential threat to their ambition whereas Tharoor’s desideratum is Delhi, not Thiruvananthapuram.