Has Shashi Tharoor dug his own political grave?
Is it too early to write the political obituary of Shashi Tharoor, who over the weekend resigned from the post of junior foreign minister not even a year into holding the post?
Some commentators have already written him off. Others, including a report in the Hindustan Times on Tuesday, cite Congress party sources to say Tharoor has not lost all the goodwill of the leadership and could one day make a comeback.
His resignation, so they say, had more to do with Congress not wanting to be seen to let Tharoor get away with it.
Tharoor submitted his resignation amid opposition accusations he had used his political clout to help influence a $333 million bid for the Kochi team in the Indian Premier League.
He was also accused of helping score a $15 million stake in the team for a woman widely described as his girlfriend.
In his statement to parliament last week, Tharoor denied any wrongdoing and, as part of his rebuttal, referred to his high-profile career in the United Nations where he at one stage was a contender for the top spot of Secretary General.
“I have had a three-decade career in international public service that has never been sullied by the slightest taint of financial wrongdoing,” he said.
The irony is palpable. Ahead of the election last year, some had predicted Tharoor the author, the debonair diplomat with a large fan base on Twitter and a love of P.G. Wodehouse, was not cut out for the grubby world of Indian politics.
The reform-minded Tharoor, tipped by some for a more senior role, if and when Congress party scion Rahul Gandhi ever takes over as Prime Minister, was often in the headlines for the wrong reasons in his year in power.
His Twitter account — for some a symbol of his progressiveness in a parliament mostly populated by ageing men — sparked a series of controversies in which he was seen to be attacking anybody from the Congress leadership to Mahatma Gandhi.
Rightly or wrongly, Tharoor fell from grace in just the kind of controversy one could associate with a career politician, but may have lacked a career politician’s support base.
Siddharth Varadarajan wrote in the Hindu newspaper on Tuesday an article on Tharoor’s “paratrooping” into Indian politics:
“What made his jump even more dangerous was that it was made without the safety net that grassroot experience or backroom goodwill provides. By the standards of Indian politics, his impropriety in the IPL affair was relatively minor; but unlike others whose warts catch the glare of the arclights from time to time, there was nobody willing to pad up for him when the media drew blood.
“Fatally injured, he stood his ground just a moment too long. Had he walked back to the pavilion unprompted, he might have survived to play a second innings. But he didn’t do that. Which is why his political career is today at an end.”