The first big corruption case to hit the current government has been dominating the headlines here in the past few days and has finally claimed the scalp of junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor. The allegations revolve around the recent purchase of a new Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket franchise for Kochi and the fact that Tharoor’s bit on the side, Sunanda Pushkar, was given a big chunk of “sweat equity” in the franchise – i.e. she didn’t have to do anything for the money, but promised to do lots of valuable promoting and whatnot in the future. I got in touch with the IPL and promised I too would do all manner of wonderful things for them and could they give me about 10 million rupees in the meantime, but they have yet to return my call.
Mr Tharoor has been a controversial figure since he was appointed last year, but few seem to acknowledge that the controversies surrounding him have been entirely stupid. Mostly they have revolved around things he has tweeted (he is a renowned fan of Twitter). For instance, when new visa rules were introduced at the end of last year banning travellers who leave India from returning within 2 months, he wrote “R we going 2allow terrorists 2make us less welcoming?”, referring to the fact they were introduced to stop more terrorist scouts like David Headley getting in and out of the country. Tharoor made a completely valid point, unless you think that terrorists only have a concentration span of two months after which they forget what they’ve been planning or accidentally write “Terrorist Mastermind” under their job description on their visa application.
Earlier he got in trouble for staying in a five-star hotel when the government was supposed to be on an austerity drive. The austerity drive basically consisted of Sonia Gandhi travelling once in economy class on a plane and some other minister agreeing to carry a briefcase full of money away from a meeting with illegal mining gangsters himself rather than have an underling do it for him (only the first one of these examples can be proven).
Tharoor reacted to the uproar over his five-star accommodation by saying (again on Twitter) that he would travel “cattle class out of solidarity with all the holy cows” on his next train journey. OMG!!! WTF!!!! The media went ballistic. Not only did he suggest that travelling cheap on the train is a bit crowded, but he sort of mentioned cows in a derogatory manner!!! It is surely a miracle that the entire sub-continent did not immediately collapse and sink to the bottom of the ocean.
All of this was rather impolitic of him, of course, particularly in the ‘he said she said’ world of Indian political reporting. But now that’s off my chest, it does seem very possible that Shashi has done something corrupt and bad in this latest case – at the very least, grossly stupid. This may be only the tip of the corruption iceberg for the IPL, with claims of widespread ‘insider trading‘, and an investigation has been launched to see how far the rot goes. In the meantime, with the opposition biting at the government’s heels, Shashi had to go. It’s been a long fall for a man who was once India’s candidate for the top job at the UN. The twittering classes shall miss him.