mangalore today

NRI voting: PM holds out hope, Tharoor picks holes in bill

Mangalore Today

New Delhi, Jan9: The Congress has “taken cognizance” of Shashi Tharoor’s statement endorsing a critique on the foreign policy approach of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi as “a moralistic running commentary”, sources said on Saturday.


However, the minister of state for external affairs seems to be inviting more trouble.

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was “sincerely hoping” NRIs would vote in the 2014 general elections, Tharoor told a gathering of NRIs from the Gulf at the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas that if the draft bill was not changed, it would not be a meaningful exercise.

“So far, the draft of the bill in the Rajya Sabha says that you will have to come back to India to cast your vote. Unless that draft is changed, it won’t be a real gift for the pravasis,” Tharoor said.

He indicated that it was too early to celebrate because most NRIs would not be able to travel back to the country to vote.

Even as he congratulated the government for piloting the bill, Tharoor said in a lighter vein that he had mooted the same idea far before the Prime Minister.
“In the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2003, I had proposed this as a pravasi and had been unanimously shouted down,” he said.

“It took my coming back, and contesting and becoming an MP and Minister for this to come closer to reality…”

His remarks in the presence of British MP Bikhu Parekh, who had earlier made a critical assessment of the policies of Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi had irked Tharoor’s party.

“I agree with Parekh’s opinion on Nehru and Gandhi’s foreign policies. It was more like a moralistic running commentary,” Tharoor said at an event on Friday organised by the association of Indian diplomats and the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).

“We have taken cognizance of the statement and a response will be enunciated after appropriate consultations,” a Congress source said.


My remarks have been distorted, says Shashi Tharoor


Speaking on his latest comments seen as criticism of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi’s
foreign policy approach, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said his remarks have been distorted.

"I was summarizing what other speakers had said. My remarks have been distorted. I am dismayed at this irresponsible, dishonest reporting. India deserves better, so, frankly, do I," he said.

Speaking at a talk by British Labour MP Bhikhu Parekh in New Delhi on Friday, Tharoor agreed with the speaker’s critical assessment of the policies as "more like moralistic running commentary".

Tharoor said: "Lord Parekh and I have fought alike on issues of India’s identity and domestic arrangements. So we do, I am afraid, come from a similar outlook of the world. I think his (is a) very clear summary of the way in which Indian foreign policy drew from our founding fathers’ sense of our civilisational heritage. The extraordinary contribution of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru to the articulation of that civilisational heritage and the manner in which both enhanced India’s standing in the world, gave us the negative reputation for conducting foreign policy as a sort of moralistic running commentary on other people’s behaviour."

Sources claim that the Congress has taken cognizance of Tharoor’s comments and may take action against the Minister of State on Monday. On condition of anonymity, a senior Congress leader said that the party has "taken note" of his comments made over a period of time.

Last month, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had clearly said that "policy changes should not be discussed in public", specifically reacting to his deputy’s tweets on the subject.