Close-Up: Shashi Tharoor


Shashi Tharoor was born in London on 9 March, 1956. He studied at Campion school in Mumbai and St. Xavier’s Collegiate School in Kolkatta. He is an alumnus of the prestigious St Stephen’s College, Delhi and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the USA.

A defeated beginning:

Tharoor began his illustrious career working for the United Nations (UN) as a staff member of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He was subsequently promoted to Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information under Secretary General, Kofi Annan. In 2006 Tharoor ran for the UN top job against Ban Ki-Moon, a South Korean diplomat, but unfortunately came second best. Tharoor lost because he didn’t get the support of permanent members especially the US who considered him to be too independent minded.

Entry into Indian politics:

Following his defeat, he quit the UN and thus began his foray into Indian politics. Tharoor contested elections in 2009 from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and won by a huge margin. He was then appointed as Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) but had to quit after 11 months following a controversy.

In 2012, he was re-inducted into the cabinet as Minister of State for Human Resource Development (HRD). In 2014, Tharoor was re-elected from Thiruvananthapuram constituency in a closely fought election.

One of the most followed politicians 

Tharoor is a very active on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. He was India’s most followed politician on twitter way before others joined the social media bandwagon. Some of his tweets like the one about “traveling cattle class” did generate some controversy early on. But even today he remains amongst the most popular politicians on social media platforms.

Orator par excellence:

Shashi Tharoor is considered to be India’s finest orators. He combines a sparkling vocabulary with a charming personality and years of diplomatic experience to mesmerize and spellbind his audience. His speech at Oxford University debate went viral and was praised by Prime Minister as well. His Ted Talks have also been very popular on YouTube and serve as a testament to his exceptional oratorical skill. He also regularly addresses audiences at prestigious events like the Jaipur lit fest.

He is known for his furious debates and literary skills

As an opposition MP, he has been an active participant in the Lok Sabha and has spoken on many issues passionately like the juvenile justice bill. He continues to be an active participant in the debates and discussions in the Lok Sabha.

Tharoor is also a renowned author and has penned many books. Some of his books like An Era of Darkness, Great Indian Novel and Riot, have become bestsellers in India and around the world. He is also a proud recipient of many literary awards including Commonwealth Writer’s Prize.


He got involved in a controversy that casted a shadow on his career

11 months into office as Minister of State Shashi Tharoor was forced to resign from his position following allegations that he had used his position to influence a deal in which his wife Sunanda Pushkar received equity worth 70 crore rupees in the now defunct IPL franchise based in Kochi. Tharoor rejected all allegations saying that he wasn’t involved in any wrongdoing.

In early 2014, Tharoor’s third wife Sunanda Pushkar was involved in a twitter spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar regarding her alleged affair with Tharoor. Hours later Sunanda was found dead in Delhi’s Leela hotel under extremely mysterious circumstances. The nature and circumstances of her death led to all sorts of theories in the media some even accusing Tharoor of having a role to play in her death. The matter remains under investigation but still, casts a shadow on Tharoor’s career.

Shashi and Modi- Are they Frenemies?

Tharoor has a very interesting and ambivalent relationship with PM Modi. When Modi was PM candidate, he called Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar a “50 crore girlfriend” referring to her wealth and involvement in the IPL scandal. However, after the election, PM Modi has praised Tharoor publicly on more than one occasion including Tharoor’s now viral speech at the Oxford debate. Tharoor on his part has also praised the initiatives of the PM even accepting the nomination of one of the first ambassadors for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Both leaders have expressed mutual respect despite political differences.

‘Right man in the wrong party’

Tharoor continues to be a rare independent voice among the otherwise “high command” obsessed Congress members. He has often broken ranks with the party on key issues and even gone so far ahead as to praise the government. Tharoor had also refused to participate with fellow Congress MPs when they were disrupting the Parliament proceedings. These attributes, coupled with his oratorical ability, good relations with the PM and popularity among people have caused Tharoor to be labeled as “right man in the wrong party”. There was even speculation of him joining the BJP, but Tharoor strongly denied these rumors and has maintained that he is loyal to the Congress and that his ideology is suited best to the party.

Today Tharoor remains one of the few Congress leaders to enjoy popularity among the people and is seen as crucial to the party’s revival.Whether he is given more responsibility within the party remains to be seen.

Close-Up: Shashi Tharoor was last modified: by
To Top