Shashi Tharoor removed as Congress spokesperson

New Delhi: Cracking the whip, Congress today removed Shashi Tharoor as party spokesperson for his praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which did not go down well with the Kerala unit of the party.

"Congress President Sonia Gandhi has accepted the recommendation of the AICC disciplinary committee to remove Shashi Tharoor from the list of spokespersons of the AICC with immediate effect.


Shashi Tharoor

"The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee had submitted a complaint in this regard to the disciplinary committee," said party general secretary organisation Janardan Dwivedi in a press release.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee had prepared a report against Tharoor, which was referred to AICC's disciplinary action committee a few days ago.

The report of the Kerala unit had held that Tharoor's adulatory statements about Modi had hurt Congress workers in Kerala, who had worked sincerely and tirelessly for his victory from Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat.

Tharoor had earlier reacted sarcastically to the Kerala unit's move, saying this would mean the state leadership would finally read what he actually wrote instead of oral summaries.

The complaint by the Kerala Congress Committee had come at a time when Tharoor had accepted the invite by the Prime Minister to be a brand ambassador of "Swachch Bharat" mission of the NDA government.

Tharoor had also gone to the US during the time the Prime Minister was in that country and had appeared on various television channels. Party sources say that nobody was assigned from Congress to the US during Modi's visit and speak on the party's behalf.

Tharoor has not been briefing media at the AICC from June 4 after his piece in Huffington Post praising Modi kicked up a big row in Congress.

The Congress leader had said that it would be "churlish" if his party did not take note of Modi's efforts to sound gracious and accommodative and reinvent himself from a "hate figure into an avatar of modernity and progress".

Congress had snubbed him immediately, describing it as his "personal view". Since then Tharoor did not brief the media from AICC podium.

The view in the AICC is that Tharoor should have kept in mind that he holds a responsible position in the party and party interests should come first.

The three-member disciplinary action committee of AICC, which looked into the complaint of the Kerala Congress, comprised Motilal Vora, A K Antony and Sushilkumar Shinde.

Taking strong exception to his repeated praise of Modi and his initiatives like "Swachh Bharat" mission, Congress in Kerala had sought appropriate action by the high command against Tharoor.

Incidentally, Tharoor's press conference at the AICC were not uploaded on the party website beyond May 7 this year while the site is updated on AICC briefings till October 10.

A senior party functionary said that despite the fact that Tharoor's books in past had been "very critical" of late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, the party made him a minister even when he was the first time MP.

The only other first time MP to become a minister in the UPA government was Manish Tewari.

The leader said that despite his controversial utterances with which the party had to distance from time time, the party gave him an opportunity to head the Parliament Standing Committee on External Affairs in September when the government reconstituted Parliamentary panels after the new Lok Sabha came into being.

Tharoor has so far rejected suggestions that he was moving closer to the BJP by asserting that he was a "proud Congressman" and never endorsed the "Hindutva agenda" of the BJP.

In a massive rejig of the AICC media department ahead of Lok Sabha elections, Tharoor was made a national spokesperson in the AICC in January while he was still in the thick of a controversy over his wife Sunanda Pushkar's sudden death.

A number of faces included in the list of spokespersons and television panelists that time were close aides of the Congress Vice President and had Youth Congress or NSUI background.

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