The Congress on Thursday distanced itself from party spokesperson Shashi Tharoor's effusive praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi but he made it clear he was not his fan.
A photo of Congress candidate Shashi Tharoor campaigning in Thiruvananthpuram. (Vivek R Nair/ HT photo)
"The views expressed by Shashi Tharoor about Modi and the government are his personal views. As a party, it is too early for us to express these views. It is too early to comment on the functioning of the government," party spokesperson Shobha Oza said.
Her comments came in response to a barrage of questions a day after Tharoor's praise appeared in a US news website in which he had among other things remarked that Modi was looking to turn himself from a "hate figure into an avatar of modernity and progress".
Oza steered clear of questions as to what could be the trigger for Tharoor, an articulate spokesperson, to praise Modi, who is seen by many in the party as the "most polarising politician" in independent India.
She also parried questions on whether any action could be taken against Tharoor.
Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar slammed Tharoor, calling him "immature" and a "chameleon". Aiyar also said he was "deeply disappointed" that an "intelligent" man like Tharoor should want to rush to judgment in this manner and come out with this effusive remarks.
"This kind of chameleon-like praising just after a few days (after Modi coming to power) is uncalled for. It demonstrates great immaturity," Aiyar told NDTV.
On his part, Tharoor told NDTV he cannot be called a fan of Modi. "No, afraid you can't. I have been intrigued by the fact that the paraphrases of my piece I have seen in the Indian media looks like people don't actually read every word and every nuance," he said when asked if he could be called a 'Modi fan' now after his piece in the website.
Tharoor said his piece very clearly explains that for a dozen years the Congress party had good reasons to criticise him very severely for the 2002 riots.
But the way he has conducted himself after the election and spoken from the moment of his victory he "has been amazingly gracious and accommodative" of even those who had not voted for him.
Tharoor was all praise for the language and tone used by Modi and so he thought it would be churlish not to acknowledge it. "We should acknowledge that this may the evolution of Modi 2.0 but if Modi 1.0 reemerges, then we will robustly oppose him," he said.
Asked if the Congress party would go with his views, Tharoor said he has not been fired as the party spokesperson. He said the media creates controversies for TRP ratings "but there is actually a coherence and synergy at work" when various spokespersons speak.
When asked whether her views being expressed on Thursday are personal or those of the party, Oza, who is also the Mahila Congress chief insisted "whatever views I have expressed are my party's views."
Noting that while it is true that the Congress will work as a constructive opposition and as a party it wants the government to function well, she wondered "I would like to know what has changed. I have given you an example. Nothing has changed."
She was referring to her attack on the Prime Minister over his pre-Lok Sabha election pitch on women security and the recurring incidents of persecution of women including rapes and gang rapes in various parts of the country.