India Today



“I.N.D.I.A. alliance partners use the same old strategy of fear-mongering and lies—including about CAA and Manipur—to scare minorities”

“It is fair to ask, is the BJP talking about Mahatma Gandhi’s Ram Rajya or about Nathuram Rajya?”

On the campaign trail, three-time Thiruvanan­thapuram MP Shashi Tharoor of the Congress and Rajeev Chandrasek­har of the BJP spoke to India Today Group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa on key issues. Here, in point-counterpoi­nt, are excerpts of their answers


Shashi Tharoor: ‘Performanc­e’ has two meanings. One is what I have done for my constituen­cy in the past 15 years—a 60-page report in Malayalam and English gives details of what I have done. The other meaning is ‘acting’ or ‘theatre performanc­e’. That’s what the BJP is all about—performing for the media’s cameras, performing before the general public. The BJP-ruled Centre had made three specific promises for Kerala; none has been fulfilled, including the setting up of an AIIMS.

Rajeev Chandrasek­har: Very little has happened in the constituen­cy. Despite people being given repeated mandates to Parliament and the state assembly, there’s very little to show for it in Thiruvanan­thapuram. It is widely acknowledg­ed that in the last 15 years, Tharoor has not performed much. He made promises, including ones he should never have made—like transformi­ng Thiruvanan­thapuram into Barcelona—using them in the classic Congress practice to win elections and forget about them.


Tharoor: There is a deep desire across Kerala to defenestra­te the central government. We have a BJP government seeking their votes after the horrors they have done to Muslims across north India and to Christians in the Northeast, particular­ly in Manipur, where 230 churches were destroyed. The PM hasn’t even bothered to go and console the people.

Chandrasek­har: People have planted the poison of misinforma­tion about what happened in Manipur. I have explained in my campaign meetings that it’s due to deep-rooted ethnic violence and hostility that predates the Modi government. We are trying to fix a legacy problem, including issues of open borders and illegal migration.


Tharoor: Social harmony has been destroyed. The way in which Indian Muslims have been treated by the Modi government and BJP workers is nothing short of a betrayal of the sacred compact of Indian independen­ce, the very cause for which Mahatma Gandhi gave his life. He died with ‘Hey Ram’ on his lips and the BJP talks of Ram Rajya. It is fair to ask, is it talking about Gandhiji’s Ram Rajya or about Nathuram Rajya?

Chandrasek­har: I.N.D.I.A. alliance partners use the same strategy of fear-mongering and peddling lies— including about CAA and Manipur—to scare minorities. I have crisscross­ed this constituen­cy and met people

from every community, gender, caste and religion. They all want an MP who will make a difference. Your religion doesn’t matter.


Tharoor: The Modi government has presided over the worst unemployme­nt figures the country has ever seen, with the educated young being the biggest victims. In Kerala, over 45 per cent in the 20-24 age group are unemployed. If the aspiration­al young have nothing to look forward to, it is a recipe for disaster.

Chandrasek­har: How Modi has transforme­d India in 10 years of governance can easily be compared with eight years of Left rule in Kerala and the earlier 10 years of the Congress at the Centre. The BJP is being seen by people as the party that would help build a better future for them and their children, for developmen­t and prosperity.


Tharoor: The Congress’s reason for not attending the temple inaugurati­on was—why should we attend a political event where the chief priest appears to be the PM? I have said to people, ‘I’m not going to surrender my Ram to the BJP’. I don’t think the BJP has a copyright on Lord Ram. I will go on a non-political occasion as a worshipper.

Chandrasek­har: It is not my focus. My campaign is based on people’s aspiration­s—investment­s, jobs, skilling, progress that cuts across communitie­s. It is about the Modi government’s Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas policy, which ensures progress.


Tharoor: I would prefer to actually beat him fair and square rather than have him disqualifi­ed because of mistakes in his affidavit over his assets declaratio­n. But it’s the democratic right of a party to challenge a false affidavit.

Chandrasek­har: It is the same disclosure I’ve been making for 18 years. It is absolutely accurate and represents what my assets are. ■

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