By B S Arun & Utpal Borpujari
From a UN bureaucrat who got within striking distance of becoming the global body’s Secretary-General to a first-time MP appointed as a Minister of State in the new UPA government, Shashi Tharoor has definitely travelled a long way in all senses of the term. All set to begin his new innings in a life that has revelled in multi-tasking, Tharoor shares his thoughts about being a full-time politician with Deccan Herald:
After long years of being an international bureaucrat and an NRI, you are now a politician and a Union minister…
Well, that’s true and not yet fully true. I was a bureaucrat, but not all of it involved sitting only in air-conditioned offices and shaking hands with ministers from various countries. I did a lot of action-oriented work, in refugee-related areas, in peacekeeping. But going out to campaign in the streets and tea shops of Thiruvananthapuram was a totally new experience, though it was not completely a departure from the things I had done in my life earlier.
What has been your experience as a politician till now?
The campaign was an extraordinary experience. Coming into the world of politics from the sort of background I have, I needed to earn the right to represent the people. Many thought I would not be able to do it, and I was determined to give it a very good try, because I knew I could not behave like a conventional politician and make those flowery speeches in Sahityik (literary) Malayalam. But I made those very direct speeches in simple, colloquial Malayalam. And I must say my way of doing it seems to have struck a chord with people. It was an exhausting campaign, and my respect for politicians have gone up a lot after that because very frequently it would be 20-21 hour days, which is not easy to cope with over for a sustained period of time.
How do you plan to use your past experiences in your new role?
The whole thing about being in politics is that you are prepared to do new things. If I am given something to do that has to do with my UN experience, that will also be a new thing as I will be doing that from within the government now. I won’t claim that I come with any superior knowledge in a particular field, but yes, I have come with a wide range of experiences, insights, connections which I will use depending on their relevance to the job I am given. It is a privilege and a challenge to be able to be part of a government that is led by Dr Manmohan Singh, whom I have a lot of respect for.
You defeated a Left candidate. What do you have to say about the Left brand of politics?
The Left itself has called for introspection, and that’s the right thing to do because the biggest problem with the Left politics is that it is stuck in the 19th century. I have no doubt about the Left’s commitment to the poor, but the Congress party has the same commitment but it is allied to a respect for growth. If you don’t let the economy grow, you will have no resources to give to the poor, and that’s the big problem with the Left’s approach, because they want to stifle every economic activity and then they expect to be able to take care of the poor. That becomes the recipe for keeping the poor, poor. The only successfully-surviving Communist government is in China, and they have adopted a path that is far more Capitalist than Communist.