Shashi Tharoor’s Kerala Tour Needles Congress

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Shashi Tharoor is on his first big political tour miles away from his constituency Thiruvananthapuram.

New Delhi:

Shashi Tharoor’s whirlwind tour of his home state Kerala has become hugely controversial for the Congress, with its leaders in the state openly chary about the MP’s events and meetings. Top Congress state leaders in Kerala are upset that Shashi Tharoor’s north Kerala events are being portrayed as a “political tour” and have raised concerns over the possibility of a new “Tharoor faction”.

Responding to questions about Congress leaders seen to be “afraid” of his tour in Kerala, Shashi Tharoor said, “I do not fear anyone and there is no need for anyone to be afraid of me.”

Amid simmering anger among a section of the Congress in Kerala, a youth Congress event for Mr Tharoor was called off in Kozhikode; he was eventually hosted by a pro-Congress outfit after the intervention of Kozhikode Congress MP Raghavan and other youth congress leaders.

Mr Tharoor’s supporters – dubbed the “Tharoor faction” in the state Congress – have come out openly against leaders who allegedly imposed an “unannounced ban” on the seminar on “Sangh Parivar and Challenges to Secularism” organised by the Youth Congress on Sunday.

Now, in damage control, the Youth Congress may go ahead with an event scheduled in Kannur on Wednesday, according to sources. If not, it’s likely to be hosted again by a pro-Congress group.

In a series of tweets, Mr Tharoor shared images of what he claimed was overwhelming participation by the Youth Congress, but he also appeared to shade his party. “Wonderful welcome by @iyc activists in Kozhikode after some came under pressure not to provide me a platform,” the Congress leader tweeted, confirming reports of resentment among a section of Kerala leaders.

This is Mr Tharoor’s first big political tour miles away from his constituency Thiruvananthapuram in the southernmost part of Kerala. During his visit to north Kerala – also known as the Malabar region – the Congress MP met with his party’s largest ally in Kerala, the Muslim League.

This is not the first such meeting, but this one comes at a crucial time and context for Shashi Tharoor after his run for Congress president last month. He did not win, predictably, pitted against the Gandhis-approved Mallikarjun Kharge. He even complained about being cold-shouldered by Congress delegates in many states, but a bulk of the votes for him in the party president polls came from Kerala.

The Muslim League is apparently supportive of a greater role for Mr Tharoor in Kerala politics, though in public they have been cautious about their ally, often restricting their comments to saying, “it is the Congress’s internal matter”.

Mr Tharoor’s meeting with the Muslim League comes even as the allies attempt to mend a rift over statements by Congress’s Kerala chief K Sudhakaran, slammed as pro-RSS. Mr Sudhakaran had said on November 9 that Congress workers had given protection to the “shakhas” of the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s mentor, from Left cadre. The Muslim League took strong exception to the comments, which Mr Sudhakaran later blamed on a “slip of tongue”.

On Wednesday, Mr Tharoor will be in Kannur, the home turf of Mr Sudhakaran, who, though not happy about the tour, has attempted to rein in leaders making public remarks or airing their dissent.

Mr Sudhakaran also termed as baseless the reports that Mr Tharoor was barred from attending public events. “Tharoor has also denied it”, he said.

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