‘It’s about pedigree, stupid ! The NDTV debate on Sunanda Pushkar

published on October 31, 2012

It was interesting to watch the earnest debate on Narendra Modi’s alleged remarks about Ms. Pushkar as if it were really about women being insulted and the language that Shri Modi  allegedly used in describing her as a 50 crore girl friend at a recent rally (see NDTV, ‘ Modi vs Tharoor : A New Campaing Low ?’ , Oct. 30, 2012). It was Suhil Seth, always a pleasure to watch because of his earnestness, who introduced the word ‘pedigree’ (he uses this word quite frequently) to assail Shree Modi as someone who did not simply have class, to put it bluntly. And indeed, Shri Modi, as is well known, did come up from the ranks, the son of a family that did not surely have ‘pedigree’.
He rose to prominence in the RSS owing to his hard work and dedication in the nationalist cause. To the Suhil Seth crowd this would be the great unwashed masses ! No crime is as great as not having the right ‘pedigree’.

Mr. Shashi Tharoor, on the other hand simply reeks of ‘pedigree’. With his carefully cultivated British accent (not clear where he acquired it, possibly during his stint at the UN) and his clean cut looks, his well laundered clothes, reminiscent of the Nehruvian years, and his ‘bedroom eyes’ as one woman admirer put it a few years ago during his alleged controversial role in the IPL scam, he has the exact opposite image of Shri Modi, who speaks in an Indian language, either Gujarati or Hindi. His is a rough and ready manner of speaking, certainly not ‘classy’ in the ordinary meaning of the term. Whether it was about genuine political issues did not matter at the NDTV debate. It was his ‘manner’ that irked the participants in the debate.

For good measure a woman participant (Shazia Ilmi of India Against Corruption  ) declaimed with earnestness that yes it was right to talk about corruption, but there is a certain ‘way’ of doing it. Mr. Modi was not top drawer for this lady. As for Dilip Cherian, the communications consultant, who made some relevant remarks about how the language of politics had been generally debased, once again it was hard to take him too seriously, there was an air of unreality about the entire issue, as if it was actually about the role of women in India ( a separate chapter in itself) whereas  it was a trial of whether Shri Modi was himself anti women, and how crude and rude he was, not after all a ‘gentleman’ !

For anyone listening to the Modi speech, it was clear that he was talking about the corruption of the UPA 2 government and the recent cabinet reshuffle where a union minister who had resigned on charges of alleged corruption was reinducted by the Congress High Command. It was a political speech evidently and Shri Modi brought in the name of the unfortunate lady (Sunanda Pushkar) whom he described as Shashi Tharoor’s former girl friend, now his wife. The fact of the matter is that during the controversy over the IPL scam Shashi Tharoor is alleged to have said  that he had nothing to do with the goings on with the IPL scam, and the money was equity that went into a woman’s account. These remarks were widely reported in the press and owing to the scandal of a union minister being associated with the controversy Mr. Tharoor resigned. Shri Modi was actually repeating what Tharoor himself had allegedly said ! The woman concerned (Sunanda Puskar)was also widely reported by the media as being his ‘girl friend’, whom he married shortly afterwards !

And now Shashi Tharoor is back in the cabinet, and the UPA 2 is hoping to ride the storm , and hoping too presumably that his ‘pedigree’ will bring him back into favour with the beautiful people. However, this is not going to be easy. The most recent report about Shashi Tharoor is the allegation that he had falsified his status during the elections. An enterprising reporter has come out with a  Keralawatch.com’s   detailed report (with documentation) which alleges that Shashi Tharoor fabricated his documents to enroll into the electoral rolls in India (See Keralawatch.com).

According to the report Tharoor violated many rules and norms while submitting his application to register as a voter in the Thiruvananthapuram constituency, from where he was then elected to the Indian Parliament.

Whether he and the UPA 2 can ride this particular storm is uncertain. A picture now is building of an individual who has been trying to wing his way in political life. The Sunanda Pushkar imbroglio may turn out to be only one of the many difficulties this ‘pedigreed’ politician will have to overcome.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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