Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Affairs Of Our Externally Affable Minister

If Twitter were to look for someone to endorse their product in India, they needn't look beyond the suave  and charismatic Junior Minister of External Affairs of the Government of India - Shashi Tharoor or @shashitharoor as he is more commonly known nowadays. With 7 lakh plus followers (as of today) Tharoor is a more popular 'Twiterrer' than any other Indian, including megastar and power Twitterer Shahrukh Khan (2.68 lakhs as we write).

However, over the past one year, since he became a Minister, the media and tech friendly Tharoor has been drawn into more controversies than he would like to remember, and ironically most of them were somehow or the other linked to Twitter! Here's a low down on the Tharoor-Twitter relationship.

September 2009

This tweet by Tharoor, in response to this question by Kanchan Gupta (senior journalist with The Pioneer newspaper) started off a massive debate over what's holy and who's a cow and the sanctity of the cattle and class. It reached such a level that the Prime Minister of India had to issue a statement to calm things down!

September 2009

Just as the cattle class controversy was beginning to die down, Tharoor and his boss, S M Krishna, found themselves in a '5 Star' controversy. This was a time when the Congress government had made a big pomp of show of it's 'Austerity Drive' and during the same time it was discovered that Tharoor & Krishna were staying in 5 Star hotels in Delhi, supposedly because their government accomodation wasn't ready. This didn't go down well with the Congress and the Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee asked them to vacate the hotel rooms, which they promptly did. Tharoor insisted that he paid his hotel bills with his personal credit card. Of course this claim was made over Twitter.

October 2009

His next Tweet-roversy was on the birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation. After attending Gandhi Jayanti function he expressed his views with the following tweet (reproduced below)

"Gandhiji said ‘Work is Worship’ and we enjoy holiday on his birthday"

"In V’nam, Ho Chi Minh’s birthday is a working day and citizens are expected to put in an extra effort at work to honour him"

 However this was not taken in the desired light and gave rise to yet another controversy.

December 2009

Coming up next, after almost a 2 month gap was the Visa tweet-controversy. There were some discussions about making the Indian visa regulations more stringent and our EAM had the following to say on Twitter, which for obvious reasons were not well accepted by one and all.

"My only role is to object to them strongly. MEA (ministry of external affairs) officials are discussing them with MoHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) which imposed them"

"Dilemma of our age: tough visa restrictions in hope of btr (better) security or openness & (and) liberality to encourage tourism & goodwill? I prefer latter"

 And in response to this provocative tweet from zookybeans, Tharoor sent this as a reply.

January 2010

The new year didn't leave Tharoor's Twitter woes behind. The first controversy of 2010 involving him was about certain statements that he made about Nehru at a book release. He immediately countered the same by blaming the media of having misreported the facts. He put up the official statement on his blog, and obviously tweeted about it immediately. 

February 2010

This was without a doubt the most 'inter'esting brawl of them all. During Manmohan Singh's visit to Saudi Arabia, Tharoor accompanied the PM, and after the talks were over, made a benign statement that Saudi Arabia could be an interlocutor between India & Pakistan. The phoentic proximity between 'interlocutor' and 'intermediary' caused a lot of heartache all around. Given that most politicians in our country aren't even 'inter' pass, coming to terms with one who not only knows the word interlocutor but it's meaning as well was hard. And Tharoor cried himself hoarse trying to become an English teacher.

Definition of Interlocutora person who takes part in a conversation

April 2010

And the latest addition to the never ending saga is the @lalitkmodi v @shashitharoor full blown war on Twitter. Among other things Modi divulged the details of the ownership of the newly formed Kochi team in the IPL, and that includes a certain Sunanda Pushkar (video), who is apparently slated to marry Tharoor. Any guesses where this revelation was made? Yes, Twitter of course! It has led to both of the high profile Twitterers going silent on the medium for more than 24 hours, a death threat to the minister and the gagging of the cricket supremo. You can find all the details about the incident here. Also, Tharoor's official  statement on the allegations can be found here.

Here's what @lalitmodi's Twitter timeline looked like on Sunday, 11th April, when he made the 'revelations'.

Specifically when someone asked him 'Does @shashitharoor owns (sic) something?' here's what @lalitkmodi had to say

What's most interesting is that @shashitharoor in spite of having 7 lakhs+ followers, follows only 32 people, and as of now (15th April, 2010 3:20 AM) he is following @lalitkmodi)

Similarly, @lalitkmodi with 640000+ followers, follows only 24 people, and yes, as of now @shashitharoor is one of them

All this thanks to a micro blogging site! What more can we ask for? If Tharoor ever tweets to know whether we want him to continue here, I'm sure the unanimous response will be 'Yes, Minister!'.

Pictures courtesy: Indiatimes, Times Of India, Indian Express, NDTV & ESPN Star. All screenshots are taken Twitter home pages of Shashi Tharoor, Lalit Modi and others.

P.S: This illustration by @sudhamsu throws more light on the Tharoor-Modi controversy than all newspaper articles put together.


Abhishek said...

Impressive collation work Suhel Da. Shashi Tharoor, for all his candour, erudition and articulation, has proved to be a very naive politician. As a Union Minister, his tweets and now phone calls have brought unnecessary hassles to the government at a time when the government has its hands full with much more important issues. Surely time for him to resign till his name is cleared from this mess.
As for Mr Lalit Modi, his and his team's conduct (for instance the Sunil Valson case) have been arrogant to the core. But one can get away with showing such A-TEE-CHUD-E. But if found guilty of financial misdoings, even he will go. Somehow I have the feeling that the investigations will not go deep enough to prove anybody guilty or innocent conclusively.

Pankaj Verma said...

He is one more scapegoat to cheap politics - God saves India !

Adi J said...

We do assume that the nature of controversies bring out Mr.Tharoor in unfavorable lights, but he still remains the only politician who has come out with his views out in the open. Personal affairs have no role to play in external affairs. Taking a stand of whatsoever you think is more important if one is in a position to lead our junta.. I hope things get clarified and people get a better perspective !