“Is Tharoor really coming?” It was an oft-uttered whisper by the people heading to the Front Lawns venue at Diggi Palace, which hosted the third day of the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival. The session by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor wasn’t cancelled, and the politician had tweeted about attending the festival the night before, but rumours persisted among a few.
All ears: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor talks about the recently appointed government at the centre with Amrita Tripathi and Mihir Sharma
Tharoor did show up at the venue, as did almost every visitor to the festival, it seemed. He was in conversation with Mihir Sharma and Amrita Tripathi, and began by reading from his book, India Shastra, a collection of essays on Indian politics, media, foreign policy and civil rights.
“We have heard Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches, but what is his game plan for India’s future?” he asked. Tharoor said he was “worried that the PM has no real mechanisms” for implementing the things he says in his addresses to the nation. “There are so many low-hanging fruits, but the PM doesn’t seem to be taking the effort,” he commented.
Sharma then pointed out that Modi has popularity by his side, but his own party president, Amit Shah, discourages discussion on reforms and calls them a “Western concept”. “Why doesn’t Modi step up and clamp down on these voices?” demanded Sharma.
Tharoor added that by 2020, 116 million youngsters in India will be ready to begin work, and if education and training isn’t made priority, India will be at the cusp of a “national security issue”.
The Member of Parliament managed to avoid all controversy as nothing about his questioning in the Sunanda Pushkar case came up in the queries from the audience. A member of the audience asked him to comment on how the nation was promised development, but has been given totalitarianism, love jihad and ghar wapsi.
Tharoor remembered a European foreign investor who recently told him how he changed his mind about investing in India. “He noted that the PM speaks of foreign investment while churches are burnt in the country by his nativist party members. Well, if Modi doesn’t fulfil the promises he has made to young voters, the Congress will be waiting in the next elections,” said Tharoor to chuckles from the audience.
He also replied to questions on the Swachh Bharat campaign and felt that Modi using the visibility of his office for a good cause was all right, but it must be a sustainable effort. “I am afraid the Swachh Bharat campaign will turn into a photo-op every October 2,” he said.
Tripathi reveals next series
At the end of the day, author Amish Tripathi, who received a record $1 million advance for his Shiva Trilogy, revealed the subject of his next series. It will be a series on Lord Ram, and the first book will be titled Scion of Ikshvaku.
The author said he decided to embark on the series after a friend recently discussed how she felt Lord Ram wasn’t quite worthy of being god, given the way he had treated Sita.
“I wondered why she took it that way, and wanted to explore the issue. That’s how this series came to me,” said Tripathi.