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Tharoor dropped as Congress spokesperson

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor was on Monday removed as party spokesperson over his praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Poll: Has Congress treated Tharoor fairly?

india Updated: Oct 14, 2014 02:13 IST
HT Correspondent

The Congress Monday removed Shashi Tharoor as a spokesperson for his "repeated praise" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the second time the party had "disciplined" the former Union minister in four years.

Tharoor, whose relationship with the party has been rather tumultuous, accepted the decision as a "loyal worker of Congress" but did indicate he was not given an opportunity to respond to the accusations levelled by the party's Kerala unit.

"As a loyal worker of the Congress party, I accept the decision of the party president to relieve me of my responsibilities as a spokesman," said Tharoor after the decision was announced.

Tharoor's removal was recommended by a Congress disciplinary committee, which was later accepted by party president Sonia Gandhi.

The disciplinary panel took up the issue following a complaint by the Congress' Kerala unit that his participation in the Prime Minister's Swachh Bharat mission upset party workers.

The report of the Kerala unit had held that Tharoor's adulatory statements about Modi had hurt Congress workers in Kerala, who had worked sincerely for his victory from Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat.

Tharoor had earlier reacted sarcastically to the Kerala unit's move, saying this would mean the state leadership would finally read what he actually wrote instead of oral summaries.

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The three-member committee, comprising senior leaders Motilal Vora, AK Antony and Sushilkumar Shinde, looked into the entire matter, including Tharoor’s acceptance of Modi’s invitation to join the campaign.

The view in the AICC is that Tharoor should have kept in mind that he holds a responsible position in the party and that party interests should come first.

Tharoor had recently accepted Prime Minister Modi's invitation to join a group of nine celebrities, which included actor Salman Khan and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, to join the Clean India mission, but still expressed revervations that it could be tokenism.

Tharoor had also gone to the US during the time the Prime Minister was there, and had appeared on various television channels. Party sources say that nobody was assigned from Congress to the US during Modi's visit and speak on the party's behalf.

Tharoor has not been briefing media at the AICC from June 4 after his piece in Huffington Post, praising Modi kicked up a big row in the Congress.

The Congress leader had said that it would be "churlish" if his party did not take note of Modi's efforts to sound gracious and accommodative and reinvent himself from a "hate figure into an avatar of modernity and progress".

The comment did not go down well with the Congress which snubbed him immediately, describing it as his "personal view"

Tharoor has so far rejected suggestions that he was moving closer to the BJP by asserting that he was a "proud Congressman" and never endorsed the "Hindutva agenda" of the BJP.

The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee welcomed the action against Tharoor.

In April 2010, Tharoor was asked to resign as the minister of state for external affairs following an uproar over his alleged role in the purchase of an IPL franchise that was later terminated over a unrelated payment dispute.

Perceived to be close to the Gandhi family, he was brought back in the government in October 2012.

Tharoor's five-year association with the Congress has had a fare share of controversies - ranging from his infamous "cattle-class" tweet to a raging Twitter war between his late wife Sunanda Pushkar and a Pakistani journalist. The Congress, however, was quick to dismiss that the decision was linked to Pushkar's mysterious death.

"He is still a Congress leader and the chairperson of the standing committee on external affairs," spokesperson Shobha Oza said.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanyan Swamy claimed that the Congress was distancing itself from Tharoor because of the controversy over the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar.

Swamy was referring to recent forensic reports which suggested that Sunanda was poisoned and that the Delhi police should re-investigate the case.

( With PTI inputs)