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Shashi Tharoor - The newest Modi buff on the block

Foes turned friends? Shashi Tharoor fawns over the new PM in a new Huffington Post op-ed

Nikhil Inamdar  |  Mumbai 

Shashi Tharoor

There has been much bitterness and acrimony between the two in the past. But former Minister of State for Human Resources & now second time MP for Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi seem to have buried the hatchet and come a long way after the latter's personal attacks on Tharoor's late wife Sunanda. He had called her a "50 crore girlfriend" it can be recalled, while addressing a rally in Himachal Pradesh in 2012.

The verbal duel between the two leaders continued from time to time on Twitter as well. Tharoor tweeted a testy comment about Modi's handle crossing the million followers mark saying 'Alas, most followers are not fans!' And so on, they crossed swords many more times.

Then, a fortnight ago, Tharoor, in what appeared to be a first step towards reconciliation, told media persons how impressed he was with Modi's 'conciliatory and inclusive' statements after taking over as Prime Minister. Indeed, our netas may be bitter political rivals, clawing at each other in parliament, but they need not be personal enemies.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had much good to say about former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a day before he stepped down. And journalists who move around in Delhi circles will tell you how opponents shouting at one another on a TV panel can later be seen enjoying a drink at some soirée or the other.

But somewhat uncharacteristically for a political adversary, Tharoor, the former author-diplomat turned Congress politician has now penned a fawning op-ed in the Huffington Post yesterday, that has many a flattering word for the country's new Prime Minister. "Modi and the BJP have eschewed the hubris and triumphalism they might have been assumed to have earned with their sweeping victory. In the couple of weeks since his election, Modi has been conciliatory and inclusive in both his pronouncements and his actions. I was a beneficiary of this unexpected generosity on the very day of his victory, when I received a startling tweet of congratulations from him on my own victory in my constituency. "Let us work together to move India forward," he declared in his message to me" writes Tharoor, evidently cajoled with the thoughtfulness of Modi.

'In a series of speeches, Prime Minister Modi has gone out of his way to avoid confrontational language, to omit issues and imagery that India's religious minorities would find offensive, and to extend a hand of friendship to his critics...' he continues, saying that as 'an ambitious man, Modi appears to realize that if he wants to make a success of his government, he will have to lead the nation from the center and not from the extreme right where he had built his base in the BJP'.

From lauding his move not to rename the Congress's dole programs, to appreciating his cabinet appointments and the diplomatic acumen Modi demonstrated by inviting SAARC leaders for the swearing in ceremony, Tharoor seems awed by the man as he ponders whether Modi's premiership has ushered in an era of Modi 2.0. - 'a very different figure in government from the ogre some of us had feared and demonised for year'.

'It would be churlish not to acknowledge Modi 2.0's inclusive outreach and to welcome his more conciliatory statements and actions. The moment he says or does something divisive or sectarian in the Modi 1.0 mould, however, we will resist him robustly' he concludes with what seems almost like a forced caveat.

Gracious or politically infelicitous? The jury is still out, but as the old adage goes, in there are no permanent friends or enemies.

Read Shashi Tharoor's Huffington Post piece here (How Narendra Modi May Have Evolved into 'Modi 2.0')

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First Published: Wed, June 04 2014. 11:39 IST