How Shashi Tharoor Discovered India’s Third Rail: Cricket

Shashi Tharoor has long been in the public eye – either by virtue of his public service, or his media-savvy and occasionally controversial ways.  He has served in many capacities, including the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information and the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs.  Along the way, he certainly stepped on some toes, pushed some boundaries and made some mistakes.  But the fact that his latest alleged transgression in IPL forced him to resign, while many more officials go untouched for worse transgressions, means that Indian politics has its priorities out of balance.

Though details are still forthcoming, it appears as though his opponents and even some members of Tharoor’s party believe he used his influence inappropriately to shape the terms of a financial transaction in IPL (Indian Premier League) which provided an associate of his with free equity to the tune of $15 million in a new cricket team with IPL.

Just how involved Tharoor was and to what extent he may have abused his power remains to be seen.  But, if this is what it takes to get a politician thrown out of office, then I suggest we do a search-replace with the word IPL with a list of offenses that have prompted no action from either the accused, nor the public.

I suppose some of the controversy could be tied to the fact that because Mr. Tharoor has strived so hard to bring attention to himself; he eventually got what he wanted – but not in the way that he wished. Indeed, Mr. Tharoor has been cutting-edge with his outreach to the Indian populous through social media, in particular Twitter with over 700,000 followers.  This was great for letting grassroots politics take hold. 

Like him or not, Mr. Tharoor embodied several of the traits that the Indian public was looking for in a 21st Century politician – he came from a middle-class up-bringing; he had the respect of the United Nations; he had achieved much academically and professionally; he was comfortable in both the Occident and the Orient.  But most importantly, as he was proving through his social media outreach, he was attempting to make himself accessible to the people. 

Mr. Tharoor would use Twitter to let people know where he would be on any specific occasions, giving them an opportunity to meet with him and share their concerns.  This is not to say that all of them would be addressed immediately, but at least they would be heard – and heard by the person who was supposed to listen.

Indeed, if the allegations are true, it is appropriate for Mr. Tharoor to step down and for further investigation to take place.  But, rather than fixate on this event, simply because it is tied to India’s national pastime, let us view this as a reminder that we need to hold all of our elected officials responsible for their actions – as some of their crimes reach far beyond the world of cricket.

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