Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why Dr Shashi Tharoor Matters

Outside is inside when you look from outside! People call him an 'outsider'. It is a matter of perception. For a Keralite, some one born in London, educated in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi and US, worked at UN in the New York office until 2007 and wrote English books is a total outsider. But for me, who is born in a village in Kerala, educated in Kannur and Delhi, working in the US as an NRI, Shashi is an insider. That is because although he was born and lived outside, he went to his roots and embraced the place and people he consider his own after passing opportunities to become a citizen of the western world. My four year old son is born in the USA. Will he ever identify himself as an Indian and run for a public office in India to better the live's of Les Miserables? The depth of Tharoor's committment to India and Indian people lies in the answer.

Win or lose, Tharoor already made a difference. First, he put money where his mouth is by offering himself as a candidate for election. Second, his candidature has instantly raised the standard of conversation about the purpose of election in a chaotic democracy like ours. Third, he set an example for highly qualified and successful people who are sitting on the side lines hesitating to test the dirty waters of Indian Politics.

American people are better served because successful people from other walks of life enter politics and take public offices. A B Film actor, fighter pilot, a professor at University of Arkansas, part owner of a baseball franchise and a community organizer; all became presidents of USA. People who ran big corporations, those who went to Harvard and Yale, those who are Rhodes Scholar, bankers and accountants, surgeons and physicians, lawyers and engineers; all come to politics. Sure, there are people who enter politics because of pedigree but people with sheer merit walk straight into American politics and achieve great heights. Obama and Bobby Jindal are no accidents in American Politics. They are the products of American's willingness to invest in smarter people even when they disagree with them.

Unfortunately in India, it is easier if you come from the rough and tumble of local politics. It is easier if you speak local dialect but with fewer thoughts about how to solve local problems. It is easier if you dress up like a local but does not represent the struggle and aspiration of the locals. It is not easy for Dr Shashi Taroor. Having a PhD in law and diplomacy from Tufts University does not make it easier. Being a number 2 man at UN does not make it certain. Having written many books of international repute does not guarantee an election victory in the capital of India’s most literate state. He is accused of as ivory tower intellectual by men of fewer merit and accomplishments. Youth wing of his party of choosing has publicly protested against the ‘imported candidate’ only to be told to back off by Ms Sonia Gandhi.

I am afraid that this very writing will be ridiculed as an NRI love shown by a fellow NRI in the US to a man who spent most of his adult life in New York. It is not. I don’t know Shahi Tharoor personally. I didn’t even know that he had Kerala connections until he announced his candidature from Thiruvananthapuram. I didn’t even know he could speak fluent Malayalam. But I know this. Shashi is a once in a lifetime rarity that manifests in Indian political landscape. I am sure temptations of good life in New York and Dubai might have gave him countless sleepless nights before making a decision to enter into Indian Politics. I am sure he offered deaf ears to lucrative consulting jobs that were his taking. Instead he chose to sweat it out among the locals in the scorching April Sun in Kerala. He could have waited for an opportune moment to get nominated to Rajya Sabha and found his way to Union Cabinet. Instead he chose the path that is chosen by many great men in world’s largest democracy. And like those men, win or lose, he will be keep coming back to his people and constituents to make life better for everyone.

I have only one thing to say to voters of Thiruvanathapuram. If you worry that he does not understand common man’s problems and not vote for him, you are not doing justice to the historic opportunity that is presented to you. To elect a candidate who represents a new attitude in Indian politics. You have given chances to many men who did not change the landscape of your capital city in any big way. Give a chance to this honorable and able man!

1 comment:

Dr Shashi Tharoor said...

Dear Sreeresh,

Thanks so much! I am truly humbled by the extraordinary level of trust the voters of Thiruvananthapuram have placed in me, and I am conscious that now is when the real work begins...

With gratitude for your good wishes and support, and hoping it will continue to sustain me over the next five years!

Shashi Tharoor