The restlessness in the Congress over the new president has now spilled over into strategy.
An elite group led by Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor wants the saturation bombing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop. Tharoor's statement that the Prime Minister should even be praised for the right things he said seems to have especially touched a raw nerve. "I have argued for six years now that Narendra Modi should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, which would add credibility to our criticisms whenever he errs," Tharoor had said.
The suggestion was dismissed outright by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. "Modi's actions are unacceptable almost all the time. There is no need to praise Modi saying he has done something right after he had committed a thousand mistakes. Such unacceptable behaviour can never be eulogised," he told reporters in Harippad on Sunday. "Congress will continue its fight against Modi no matter what," Chennithala said.
Chennithala's rude slamming of the door against Tharoor's political wisdom is also said to be a sign of creeping distrust. Senior Congress leaders in Kerala, barring perhaps A K Antony, are said to be suspicious of Tharoor as they feel that he is shrewdly positioning himself as a pan-India leader deserving of the mantle of the Congress president. Certain state leaders are also miffed that after the massive victory of the Congress in the state Tharoor had used his social media standing to paint himself as the most reliable bulwark against right-wing forces.
Tharoor, as is his wont, is not ready to go down without a fight. He was equally combative. "No one needs to teach me how to take on Modi," Tharoor told Manorama News on Sunday. "It was me who had taken on the BJP more than anybody else in the Congress. We will lose our credibility if we don't acknowledge the good things that Modi had done," he said.
To his credit, Tharoor had always been against a blanket criticism of Modi. Here is what he famously said during the rlease of his book 'The Paradoxical Prime Minister'. "My book is not an attempt to say the man was worthless. I have also said many nice things about the man. That was why I had earlier said this book was not an attempt at floccinaucinihilipilication," Tharoor said. (This 27-alphabet noun is one word for the action or habit of estimating something as worthless.)
In yet another best-seller of his, 'Why I am a Hindu', Tharoor had come up with a sucker punch of a charge that had the BJP squirming in anger. Tharoor said the BJP would tear up the Constitution and create a new Hindu Pakistan if it comes to power again.
He virtually spat at the right-wing pantheon. Tharoor wrote that the stalwarts of the Sangh Parivar – Savarkar, Golwalkar and Deendayal Updhyay – wanted the Indian Constitution discarded.
"They wanted it discarded because it is based on the wrong idea of nation. The Constitution assumed the nation of India as a territory. Wrong, they said. The nation is a people, they argued. And the people are Hindus. The rest are essentially guests or interlopers. Christians and Muslims they considered bandits and dacoits," Tharoor said.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Mullapally Ramachandran said Tharoor's statement was "unfortunate" and he would speak to him.
Ramachandran told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that Tharoor had vehemently opposed the BJP-NDA government for five years. "I do not know what change has come in the last one week. I do not know how he can back the Modi government now", he said.