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Pressure builds on Tharoor

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

PM terms remarks a ‘joke’

Demand for the removal of Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor twitted in the Congress quarters for the first time even as the first-time minister tendered his apology for his online remarks on the austerity measures taken by the party.

Condemning Tharoor for his “derogatory cattle class” remarks, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot advised him to “tender resignation”. The Congress party also hinted at “appropriate action at appropriate time”.

However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today sought to downplay Tharoor’s remarks on the social website Twitter, saying the remarks were just a joke. The prime minister was speaking to reporters at an Iftar party hosted by him.

Defending Gehlot’s call for his removal, the party retained pressure on Tharoor, and said such remarks were bound to provoke reactions. “When you make such statements, of course there will be some reactions. The Congress will take appropriate action in appropriate time,” party spokesman Manish Tiwari said.

In Jaipur, on the sidelines of an Iftar party hosted by him on Thursday evening, Gehlot said: “Tharoor is occupying a responsible and most dignified post and he should have not made such condemnable and unfortunate remarks.” The Rajasthan CM added that Tharoor should not only tender an apology to the country but also submit his resignation.

Hours after Gehlot called for his removal, Tharoor, currently in Africa, went back to Twitter and posted his apology to all those hurt by his “cattle class” remarks. Tharoor had earlier written on Twitter that he would continue to “travel in cattle class in solidarity with all our holy cows.”

Under pressure after the party slammed his Twitter remarks, Tharoor also admitted that the cattle class was “a silly expression but means no disrespect to economy class travellers, only to airlines for herding us in like cattle”. But the minister also didn’t use the opportunity to mention “I now realise I shouldn’t assume people will appreciate humour. And you shouldn’t give those who would wilfully distort your words an opportunity to do so”.

Tharoor also clarified that he didn’t target any individual when he mentioned “holy cow”. The minister of state for external affairs added: “Holy cows are NOT individuals but sacrosanct issues or principles that no one dares challenge. Wish critics would look it up.”

Reacting to the of sarcastic remarks uploaded by Tharoor’s officer on special duty on Twitter, Tiwari said: “I would not like to dignify comments of an aide by reacting from this forum. I also urge the media not to give undue and unnecessary importance to a person who has no contribution in public life.”

The party maintained that Tharoor’s comments were unacceptable and insensitive.

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First Published: Sat, September 19 2009. 01:21 IST