Although critical of the Modi government, author-politician Shashi Tharoor says it was BJP’s overwhelming victory in last year’s Lok Sabha polls that inspired him to write his next book, the last in his trilogy on India.
“It (the idea of the book) took shape in my mind after the election. If there had been more continuity in government, I might have been inclined to await the 70th or 75th anniversaries to conclude the trilogy. But this now seemed like a moment to be seized,” Tharoor said.
His latest book ‘India Shastra: Reflections on the Nation in Our Time’, which would be released tomorrow at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF), is a portrait of under-transformation contemporary India.
“Each of the three marks a moment — the 50th anniversary of Indian independence with ‘Midnight to the Millennium’; the 60th with ‘Elephant Tiger’; and now the sea change “Modi-fication” of the country in 2014,” said the best-selling author who had switched over to politics after he joined Congress in 2009 from being a top diplomat in the United Nations.
He said only two sections of the book are about the Modi regime while rest take a broader view of our historical legacy, cultural evolution and national challenges.
In the past, Tharoor has been in trouble for gushing praises on Modi and was even sacked as party spokesperson in October last year.
In his assessment of the new regime, Tharoor gives Modi only two marks on work and complains of his government being high on rhetoric.
“It’s too early for a report card. Still, since you ask, 8 out of 10 for rhetoric, 2 out of 10 for results. Mr Modi’s fine sound bytes have not seen much implementation so far,” the Congress MP from Kerala said.
Tharoor, who felt “honoured” to accept Prime Minister’s invitation to join the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission of the NDA government, and has praised him on a number of occasions, however, dismissed suggestions that he is a secret admirer of the PM.
“I had merely recognised some positive language, some unexceptionable schemes and a handful of policies consistent with my own view of the national interest. I have found far more to be highly critical about. The book demonstrates that fully,” the senior Congress leader said.
Asked if the present government has been slow in implementing its ideas of bringing in change, he said, “Yes. If you see any promises fulfilled and reforms implemented, let me know because I haven’t spotted any yet!”.
When asked how tough it was for him to ensure that his book is not politically-biased, Tharoor said he has been writing for a very long time now, even before he joined the Congress.
“… and I hope my readers feel that I have things to say that go well beyond my role as an opposition MP,” said Tharoor, who has been awarded with the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for his contribution to the literary world.
‘India Shastra’ is a collection of 99 essays that seek to paint a portrait of a society in flux, battling issues of contention and facing enormous challenges and opportunities in the second decade of the 21st century.
The former minister of state for external affairs said foreign policy is an area where historically our political differences stop at the water’s edge.
“Modi’s foreign policy shows a lot of continuity from ours, as I have shown in the book. It is part of normal opposition politics to twit him on his frequent absences — but what is substantively more important is the extent to which his foreign trips serve our nation’s domestic purposes. Here the jury is still out,” he said.
“If the travels become an end in themselves, unrelated to any tangible benefit for India or Indians, then we will be having the right to complain”, said Tharoor whose last book ‘Pax Indica’ reflected on India’s international relationships.