Kolkata: Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor today praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his gesture of congratulating him after winning the Lok Sabha elections, saying he did not expect him to reach out after their "nasty" spat.
At the same time, Tharoor was critical of the Modi government, saying there is a huge gap between rhetoric and reality. Tharoor, whose wife Sunanda Pushkar's mysterious death has led police to register a murder case and triggered a controversy, also lashed out at the media, alleging it is "irresponsible".
"I didn't expect him(Modi) to reach out and that's why I was very impressed," the Congress MP said during a media interaction at the launch of his book "India Shashtra" in the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival.
"I was surprised because Modi had not shown signs of reconciliation with an opponent before that. He and I had also clashed quite clearly and explicitly 3 to 8 months previously when he had said something about my wife," he said, recalling Modi's "nasty" tweet about Sunanda.
In an apparent attack on Pushkar, Modi had said at a Lok Sabha election rally in Shimla last year, "Wah kya girlfriend hai. Aapne kabhi dekha hai 50 crore ki girlfriend?" (What a girlfriend? Have you ever seen a 50-crore girlfriend).
Tharoor had later taken on Modi by tweeting, "My wife is worth a lot more than your imaginary 50 crores. She is priceless." Tharoor, who had accepted the Prime Minister's invitation to join the 'Swachh Bharat' mission of the NDA government, said, "I must admit that I was taken aback. It was a very gracious thing to do".
Tharoor recalled that Modi had also reached out to him earlier on Twitter but that had political reasons as he had appealed to him to get young voters to register. "I joined because that was the cause I believed in," he said.
Tharoor did not take any questions from the media when asked about the Sunanda murder case. He also praised BJP for including more women in the party, terming it as a "healthy sign". "I am pleased that the BJP is finally making room for the right gender because that was a very very male dominant government and a male dominant party. So that's a healthy sign."
In a no-holds-barred attack on the media, Tharoor said that the advent of 24/7 TV channels and the pressure of breaking news and TRPs have led to a race to the bottom in terms of sensation, voyeurism and headline grabbing.
"I have been misquoted in media, being defamed now day in and day out," he said, adding, the media is "free and irresponsible".
"90 per cent of Indian journalists do not record what I am saying. Almost every quote attributed to me in the Indian media is an inadequate para-phrase by the journalist of what he thinks I said.
"My fluency is only valued to those who are actually hearing me. If tomorrow there is a newspaper article about this, I guarantee the quotes will be wrong". Tharoor also said that there was always either a by-poll somewhere or state Assembly polls and to win the elections Modi has to take the help of RSS to "polarise the electorate". He said that Modi himself started off as an RSS pracharak and so he also belongs to the same school of thought.
Answering a question on Kiran Bedi joining the BJP and speculation about Shazia Ilmi and Jaya Prada joining the party, Tharoor said, "I know Shazia. She is a bright woman, but I am sure she is going to get hit because of what she said about the BJP as recently as a year ago on forums like Twitter, which you can't quite easily erase now." On Bedi's joining BJP, he said that she was always inclined that way in the last couple of years. "It was just a matter of time."
Describing Jaya Prada, a former SP MP, as a socialist for many years, he said, "She did come knocking on the doors of the Congress party. How someone who is a socialist and from Samajwadi party can be comfortable in the party (BJP)?" Tharoor wondered.