Thursday, September 17, 2009


He was asking for it. Shashi Tharoor, back to India after decades in the US, forgot that he was not President Obama, India was not the US and the Congress party was not the Democratic party. So, when he got onto Twitter and started tweeting regularly to an ever increasing number of followers, the Congress High Command would not have been amused. And when the number of his followers crossed one lakh, alarm bells would have started ringing. Outside of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Tharoor, a political novice, had become the first leader to connect directly to so many Indians, and that too interactively on a daily basis.

His soaring popularity, highlighted regularly by the media, not only created a new star in the Congress overnight but also made many Indians acutely aware of the distance and the disconnect that existed between them and the much more youthful Rahul Gandhi, the uncrowned king of the country.

The High Command had to do something. Sure enough, it reacted a few days back by publicly ordering him out of the comforts of the five star hotel he was staying in, and in to the rather humble environs of the Kerala House where not only was there no gymnasium, Tharoor even had to eat food in the canteen like, and with, the real "aam aadmi". It is clear that Tharoor did not get the real message then. That is why not only did he send a tweet to his fast growing followers, that he was paying from his pocket and that he had been staying in a five star hotel for 100 days because it had a gym and gave him privacy, but also kept tweeting regularly.

The Congress was not going to let him get away! It was just waiting for that inevitable slip that would give it just the opportunity that it needed to censure him even more severely and put a firm end to his twittering ways. Yesterday, he did that and more. Replying to a tweet about travelling in Economy Class as a part of the austerity drive launched by the Congress High Command, he tweeted: "Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows."

The Congress party has hit back hard saying that his remarks were "unacceptable given the sensitivity of all Indians and not in sync with our political culture". The "political culture" bit is the operative part. How can any Congressman dare to even remotely compare Sonia Gandhi with a cow? Criticising the party's Holy Family is blasphemy!

The effect on Shashi Tharoor has been electric. He has not posted a single tweet on Twitter for over 22 hours now, the last one being "RIP Patrick Swayze". Perhaps just the right tweet to let his own Twitter page rest in peace, leaving behind 164, 548 disappointed followers.

Yesterday, I had penned a short poem on hearing about the commotion created by his "cattle class" tweet. Although I had posted in India Tweets then itself, I am posting it here again:

There was this smart guy called Tharoor
Who came to India ready to say 'Huzoor'
Not knowing then that for first class
He would soon lose his long held pass

Now no more than chattel
He has to suffer class cattle
And to the wishes of the holy cow
Morning and evening humbly bow

Today, I have written a limerick in similar vein. Here it is:

Feel sorry for minister-tweeter Shashi Tharoor
Who tweeted austerity was a "cattle class" rule
The enraged holy cow
Shoved a horn and how
That indiscretion in searing pain he does rue!

I am sure this is not the end of the story. I will not be surprised if he soon finds himself travelling in real "cattle class", a bullock cart, on the the dirt tracks that you find in India's hinterland. How soon do you think he will move to the Rural Development ministry?