CAMPBELL, Calif. — Decrying the popular notion that the BJP had won the national election even before polling started, Indian Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor stated that he was very confident that the Congress party could form a coalition with regional parties to lead India again.
In an interview with India-West here, Tharoor — a member of the Congress party who had just finished campaigning to capture his third term in the Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala — said: “The large number of opposition parties that are not allied with us at the pre-poll stage will definitely not want to ally with the BJP in a post poll stage, and if they’re going to ally with anybody, it will be with us.”
Tharoor mentioned “obvious examples,” such as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who leads the Trinamool Congress; former Uttar Pradesh Chief Ministers Mayawati and Akilesh Yadav, who head the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, respectively; as well as regional parties.
“For all these reasons one can't imagine that the Congress would find it difficult to form United Progressive Alliance 3 because there would be far more willing partners than the BJP would find to get the National Democratic Alliance,” he asserted.
Rahul Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress, has found his footing on the campaign trail, said Tharoor. “He had been so completely lampooned and caricatured by the BJP, especially on social media over the last few years, that it's only now on the national campaign trail that he is able to establish a convincing profile for himself.”
“He is now much more so than even a year ago seen as a credible national leader and a more than viable alternative to the present megalomaniac ruler Mr. Modi,” he stated.
Tharoor characterized the national election as a battle to recapture the soul of India. “It’s not just an ordinary election. It’s going right back to the freedom struggle for India,” he said. “Our freedom struggle is for everybody irrespective of language or religion or caste or creed or region. And therefore the country we win freedom for will be a country for everyone as well. That was the idea of India.”
The prolific writer, who formerly served with the United Nations, lambasted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP for attempting to gain political mileage from the Feb. 26 Balakot air strikes, in which Indian aircraft dropped bombs at what were believed to be terrorist encampments inside Pakistan. The Balakot air strikes followed the Feb. 14 suicide car bombing by Jaish-eMohammed terrorists, who killed 43 Indian military personnel in Pulwama, Kashmir.
“The BJP is trying to make this into a khaki election, asking for votes in the name of the Armed Forces, boasting about the air strikes in Balakot and saying, ‘Won’t you vote for the Bravehearts who bombed Pakistan?’”
“That's the kind of belligerent nonsensical rhetoric” on which the BJP is campaigning, stated Tharoor, adding: “Our government ought to be really ashamed of itself for reducing Indian politics to this level.”
Tharoor characterized the Modi government as “extraordinarily inept.”
He noted that unemployment is at an all-time high. “(Modi) said we would have 20 million new jobs a year. We've actually lost 11 million jobs last year, according to a neutral body at the Center for the monitoring of the Indian economy.”
“And we have — thanks to the folly of demonetization — taken a two percent cut in the projected economic growth for the last couple of years instead of creating two crore jobs,” stated Tharoor, pillorying the abrupt Nov. 8, 2016 move by the government which rendered all Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes worthless.
The Modi administration also bungled the new Goods and Services Tax, originally a Congress party idea, noted Tharoor. “The GST was conceived by the Congress party as a simple one rate all-inclusive tax, which would cover all goods and services. They took this sleek horse of the Congress GST and converted it into an ungainly camel with lots of humps,” Tharoor told India-West, claiming that the new initiative offers a myriad of sops to prominent BJP supporters.
Tharoor noted a stagnation of exports in several sectors, as well as a high rate of farmer suicides over the past five years since Modi took office.
“We are looking at economic ineptitude of such colossal proportions that it's affected the daily lives and, more important, the future prospects of the vast majority of Indians. The promised ‘acche din’ — good day — has never come,” he said.
India-West’s interview with Tharoor was conducted in Campbell, Calif., at the home of his sister, Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan, who campaigned exhaustively with her brother for six weeks in Kerala. Polls were held in the state on April 23, in Phase 3 of the seven-phase national election.
Srinivasan told India-West about a freak accident during the celebration of Vishu. Her brother was made to sit on a scale at a temple for a ritual known as tulabharam. “Suddenly, some party workers started shaking the scale,” she said. A large hook holding the scale fell on Tharoor’s head.
“There was a lot of blood,” said Srinivasan, noting that her brother was in intensive care and could not walk.
“He took 24 hours off after the accident and was then back on the campaign trail, 7 a.m. to midnight most days,” she said, adding: “I was so impressed with him, with his warmth to the people on the streets.”
Tharoor is scheduled to speak May 9 evening at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif., and will engage in a fireside chat May 10 evening at TiECon in Santa Clara, Calif., which will be attended by thousands of Indian American entrepreneurs, among others.
Watch the full, 30-minute interview here: