Row Over Shashi Tharoor’s Advice to Surya; Congress Leader Clarifies He Wasn’t ‘Mollycoddling’ Offender

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Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Friday waded into a controversy with his advice to BJP MP Tejasvi Surya that many saw as going soft on bigotry, triggering a social media outrage which evoked a clarification from Tharoor that his intention was not to “mollycoddle” the offender. It all started with Tharoor’s tweet advising Surya, tagging a media report on the Bengaluru South MP’s allegations regarding a bed blocking scam and his mentioning of names of Muslim staffers.

“My young colleague @Tejasvi_Surya is smart, passionate & talented. But I urge him to avoid this kind of behaviour,” Tharoor tweeted, tagging a media report about the impact of Surya’s allegations on Muslim staffers. “Humanitarian needs must prevail over communal politics. Unity across political and religious lines is indispensable when lives are at stake,” the MP from Thiruvananthapuram tweeted.

Tharoor describing the BJP Yuva Morcha chief as “smart, passionate and talented” met with outrage on social media with many accusing him of normalising bigotry and going soft on Surya. “Hannibal Lecter was also smart, passionate & talented,” a Twitter user wrote referring to the serial killer character created by novelist Thomas Harris.

Responding to this tweet, Tharoor said on Twitter, “Of course! So the choice is theirs: like Hannibal, whether to use their talent to be known as a renowned doctor or an infamous cannibal. I’m hopeful our young politicians will channel their talent & energy more constructively, to something better than divisive communal politics.” Quoting from Shakespearean play ‘The Tragedy of Julius Caesar’, Tharoor posted the lines, “And Brutus is an honourable man. So are they all, all honourable men.” “There are different ways of making your point. I used mine. Mark Antony had his. Clearly many people I respect would prefer theirs. Each is entitled to their own approach. The end result is what we all want,” the Congress leader said. As the outrage and criticism continued, Tharoor put out a series of four tweets to clarify his position on the issue.

“The words I used to describe a Lok Sabha colleague have genuinely upset a lot of people, including some who’ve been my well-wishers. Like you, I disapprove of his (Surya’s) recent and past actions. It was out of solidarity with the 17 youth who unjustly were affected that I tweeted at all,” he tweeted. Tharoor said he knows Surya as a member of the parliamentary committee he chairs and sees qualities that he felt could be put to better use than to stoke communalism. “In the present inflamed environment, I regret that my message got lost in your outrage,” Tharoor said.

“‘A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down’, goes the saying: I see many of my friends spat out the sugar and ignored the medicine. I understand you felt my ‘sugarcoating’ mollycoddled the offender and normalised his inexcusable conduct. That wasn’t my intention,” the former Union minister said, adding that was the reason he was issuing the statement to clarify his position “Unlike most of my critics, I need to continue to work with MPs of different parties, & convictions opposed to mine, in the LokSabha. But I agree fully with my critics – there is NO space for normalising bigotry,” he asserted. Surya, Bommanahalli BJP MLA M Sathish Reddy and Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya on Tuesday made claims about the bed blocking scam in Bengaluru and mentioned the names a few Muslims, who were deployed at the COVID War Room of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), while making the allegations. However, top police sources said on Friday that investigation into the scam pertaining to blocking beds in private hospitals for COVID patients has so far not revealed the involvement of those Muslims whose names were mentioned by Surya on May 4 in a live programme.

Many leaders have expressed outrage over Surya’s remarks.

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