There’s nothing wrong in wishing or praising your prime minister on his birthday. But, it becomes talk of the town if the continuing praises emanate from a political opponent and there’s a history of mutual public mudslinging. That’s why a recent Facebook post by Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Dr Shashi Tharoor, praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday, is being discussed in Delhi’s political circle.
While the nation outpoured its love on social media for PM Narendra Modi on his 66th birthday on September 17, Tharoor, the once-upon-a-time poster boy of Congress, too didn’t refrain from showing his affection for Modi once again.
Tharoor’s facebook read: “On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday last year, I tweeted: “Happy Birthday @narendramodi. May you continue to serve India with energy & commitment. Will continue to disagree with your politics, but with respect!” What surprised me was his response, barely a couple of hours later: “Thank you, Dr. Tharoor. And, what is our democracy without constructive criticism! Debate makes us stronger.” It is this capacity to reach out across the political divide to opponents that struck me as the most unusual personal characteristic of our Prime Minister. I had, after all, used the occasion of his birthday to remind him again of our political differences; yet he had not only taken that in his stride, but also turned it around into a positive message of conciliation and collegiality. A similar thing had happened, in fact, on the day of his election victory in 2014. It was only in the evening, as the results poured in and the size of his majority became apparent, that I issued this somewhat grudging tweet: “Still touring my constituency to thank party workers, but before it’s too late, congratulations @NarendraModi & BJP on an astonishing victory”. Within minutes this came back from him: “@ShashiTharoor Many thanks. Congratulations for your victory as well. Let’s work together to create a better India!” This is the spirit in which I wish Narendra Modiji a happy birthday today in 2016. Let us, Government and Opposition, work together to create a better India. When your policies are manifestly in the national interest, let us support you; and when, in our view, they are not, let us take opposition constructively, respecting each other’s sincere faith in different paths to India’s betterment. In that spirit, I wish Narendra Modiji a long, healthy and productive life in the service of our nation.” Let us hope we can continue to work in our different ways for a better India. Happy Birthday Pradhan Mantriji!
The Prime Minister was gracious enough to promptly reply on social media by saying, “Thank you so much @ShashiTharoor. Looking forward to the continued debate and discussion in the times to come.” The prolific writer, that Tharoor is, has irked many senior politicians from Congress including Sonia Gandhi. Tharoor has appreciated Modi and his governance on several occasions since Modi came into power in 2014. Often criticised for praising the PM, Tharoor insisted that he is only “pro-India” and does not support Modi or the BJP party.
A joke doing the rounds among the political circles: “Tharoor, who is known for his ability to charm women, is flirting with the Modi government too!”
Orators of prime quality, Modi and Tharoor have had their run-ins in the past when Narendra Modi called the latter’s wife (Late Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor) a ‘50-crore girlfriend,’ to which Tharoor responded by saying that his wife was “priceless and worth much more than the imaginary 50 crores.”