Shashi Tharoor on Sushma Swaraj's speech: One can't use UN as political platform

Oct 03, 2018, 08:18 IST | PTI

Hitting out at the Congress leader, BJP had earlier said the opposition party defied a convention of all political parties speaking in the same voice on India's stand abroad

Shashi Tharoor on Sushma Swaraj's speech: One can't use UN as political platform
Shashi Tharoor

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor Tuesday lashed out at the BJP for criticising him for describing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's UN address as a "campaign" speech and alleged that the saffron party "politicised" foreign platforms.

Hitting out at the Congress leader, BJP had earlier said the opposition party defied a convention of all political parties speaking in the same voice on India's stand abroad. "BJP wants...and criticise me, I will also be equally harsh and say, I must say that they have really disappointed all true patriots by the way in which they have politicised foreign platforms. They have done so starting with the Prime Minister and now ending with the foreign minister," Tharoor told reporters here.

"This is not the way in which India should conduct its foreign policy. I am quite confident that if the Congress party comes back to power, we will not fight our political battles abroad," he said. Questioning whether Swaraj's address was a UN speech or BJP slogans, Tharoor had tweeted that she devoted the first half of her speech mentioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision for a "New India" and discussing programmes as the Swachh Bharat Mission.

"Bit rich to be criticised by the BJP for describing Sushma Swaraj's speech as a campaign speech. She mentioned Narendra Modi 10 times during her address and spoke about/on behalf of India only five times. If you use the UN as a political platform you can't hide behind the flag," Tharoor said. Tharoor told reporters here he was normally very supportive of the union government in international forums because "national interests transcend political interests." "Unfortunately, this BJP government has been completely ignoring this time-honoured principle. We have had the prime minister attacking his predecessors on foreign soil.

He has been going around, saying that the Congress has let the country down abroad," he said. Criticising Swaraj, he alleged that she made a "campaign speech" instead of speaking to foreign delegates at the UN forum. "Here is a foreign minister goes to an international podium like the United Nations General Assembly and instead of speaking to the delegates from other countries, she delivers a blatant campaign speech in Hindi...," he said.

Tharoor claimed he was "very mild" in his criticism of Swaraj's speech, saying he was disappointed that the External Affairs Minister chose to use an international forum to make what was a political speech "aimed at her voters in India rather than at the international audience." BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi had said the Congress is being increasingly seen to be standing with Pakistan as Tharoor's statement was not an isolated incident and the opposition party often spoke the language of the neighouring country.

He said the Congress should apologise to the country and said its stand on various issues appeared similar to that of Pakistan in "intent, language and style". On Sunday, Tharoor had reportedly said in Kerala that Swaraj's speech was aimed at her party's voters on the subject of Pakistan rather than constructing a positive image of India in the world. Trivedi had said, "There has been an established convention in politics since independence that political parties are unanimous on foreign issues, at least when it comes to taking a stand at the United Nations (UN) where India's position is not of a political party."

"Pakistan has always opposed us there. For the first time a senior Congress leader is also criticising," he had said, adding Tharoor had earlier used the term "Hindu Pakistan" to attack the BJP's rule. The BJP leader had also cited comments of Congress leaders like Mani Shankar Aiyar and Ghulam Nabi Azad to liken it with Pakistan in its opposition to the Modi government. He said the Congress has lost the "moral right" to claim to be the party of Mahatma Gandhi, wondering if the Congress in zeal to oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also opposing the country.

Tharoor, who was in Hyderabad to attend a meeting of the 'Congress Professionals' unit, also hit out at the NDA government over demonetisation and the Rafale deal. Replying to a query if prosecution should take place in the deal and whether Congress would do so if it is voted to power, he said "Congress believes that a thorough investigation is required."

Joint Parliamentary Committee would be the right mechanism to do that, he said. Asked about the farmers' protests in Delhi Tuesday, he said Congress has been pointing out the "betrayal of the Indian farmer" by the BJP government. Tharoor was also critical of the TRS government in Telangana which, he alleged, supported the NDA government on various issues. "Voters in this state must realise that a vote for the TRS is a vote for the BJP," he said.

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