An Open Letter to Sanjukta Basu
At the outset, let me confess that I have contemplated deeply about the need to write this letter because I have in the past admired your courage and guts to stand for the right many times in public and in private as well. Today, however, I find myself in a dilemma that I must write to such a strong lady about something I believe she and I have a duty to protect: The Unity of the INC.
Before I am accused of being a member of the Tharoor faction, it is common knowledge that I actually lead one part of it and I do unapologetically so, primarily because I don’t drive a fan club but a team that unequivocally believes in the ideals and values their leader practices and propagates. This supposed transgression does not however make me any less of a Congress supporter.
In your most recent vicious attack that included scourging the twitter timeline of Dr Shashi Tharoor, you tweeted and I quote, “Mr. Tharoor is highly active on SM. He tweets all day but he lives in his own planet, doesn’t know who is RG or INC. That just shows so much of disrespect and apathy towards the party/leader.”
Now given the number of accounts that out of sheer admiration choose to replicate his Display Profile, I do wonder if you checked Shashi Tharoor’s verified account or a parody account bearing the same name, because for the record, it is you who praised him publicly not too long ago for supporting Rahul Gandhi.
In case you missed Dr Tharoor’s tweets on Rahul and his sister Priyanka, here’s a refresher:
I hope this has suitably proved my point and established sufficient ground that helps you understand that Shashi Tharoor braved the odds and despite the pandemic chose to be with Rahul Gandhi on the road to Hathras putting his own life at risk along with every INC MP who believed that this was the best course of action. If he wasn’t interested or if he doubted the Gandhi leadership there was no stopping him from not participating in the rally at all. Solidarity, my dear friend, is not just what happens on social media, but what happens off of it.
What I can’t understand is why you and your coterie are manipulating people in a way that they work as a wedge in a perfectly synergised political relationship between two leaders of the same party. Creating a rift when the political climate of the country is tense is, quite literally, suicidal.
I did try reasoning with you on Twitter before, but you have since stepped up from the light bantering to ranting, trolling and now attacking the political character of someone you don’t know and haven’t met.
Now I must admit that I absolutely respect your unequivocal support and loyalty to Rahul Gandhi and I understand because I feel the same for Dr Tharoor. There’s just one major difference between the two supporters: The “Tharoor” faction that you talk about will not stoop to abuse and then generalise one or two views as their leader’s views nor are they designed to talk the language of glorified expletives. But just because someone tolerates your views, it does not serve as an opportunity for breach of privilege.
I am calling you out today because while Dr Tharoor doesn’t need a proxy to reply for him, the party sure needs its best voices to stand together and speak as one. And that won’t happen unless these differences are set aside.
I am generally the last one on the scene because I don’t find the need to be embroiled in social media battles, unless it means that my silence reeks of complicity with fallaciousness that could damage individuals and the party I believe in as well; hence this letter.
Now I have absolutely no problem if you don’t like Shashi Tharoor; nor does he, for we are still a democracy and you have every right to believe in who you want to, but, if you use one name to divide a party that is already struggling to keep itself together, I think it’s a betrayal of the Indian National Congress as a whole; because pitting one leader against the other is only leveraging the interests of those who are eager to see the already fragile Congress crumble under its own weight. The resultant damage caused by such erroneous and irresponsible spread of mis-information could have far more lasting consequences.
Your tweet, which is the moot point here is clear evidence on how you constantly refer to multiple senior Congress leaders colluding to take Rahul Gandhi down but barring one, you don’t name anyone else. Why? Who is this seething resentment against? Dr Tharoor or his supporters or both?
Twitter is not a high-end fan club where senior leadership tweets on one leader through the day to show their loyalty. They do what they have to in the appropriate forum at the exact time without the need for anyone to show them how to. It is ridiculously churlish of you to believe that an INC leader’s timeline should be an extended paean of praise for one person which would amount to hero worship. And the INC since the time of Pandit Nehru has not been one to indulge in such superfluous manifestation of pseudo -loyalty.
Indeed, Dr Tharoor’s credibility with, and appeal to, those who are not already die-hard INC supporters - the “neutrals” and “uncommitteds” Congress needs to win back if it is to defeat the BJP nationally - lies in the fact that his timeline is not merely a mirror of Mr Gandhi’s or the INC’s. His following includes people who may not be principally politically aligned with us but who enjoy his posts on literature, culture, world affairs, cricket and other subjects as well. This makes them more receptive to his political messaging, which he consistently issues but proportionately, with other topics of interest.
So dear Sanjukta, I implore you to re-think, re-work and revise your strategy once you have realised that your loose comments have just sowed the seed of divide et impera and the timing could not be more off, for the damage it is causing through the resulting chaos.
This country needs a strong and united Opposition. If Party workers and supporters start creating a hollow foundation from the grassroot level, needless to say, the party with the shaky foundation loses and I’m not talking about 2019 or 2024, I’m talking about everything in between.
Yes we have our own identity as Tharoorians and we also know that the Indian National Congress embodies the best of our collective belief in the greater good.
I hope that instead of now taking a dig and going after select Congress leaders, you will re- direct your energies in strengthening the party with your fiery debating skills and your ability to support the party’s collective cause which is to ensure that India gets the leadership it deserves.
With every good wish,
(Katherine Abraham is a teacher and a journalist from the British College of Journalism with degrees in Literature and Law. She is the Founder of a Global Volunteers Network called Tharoorians for Change created as a tribute to her mentor, Dr Shashi Tharoor.
All views espoused in this article are the author's alone.)