Thiruvananthapuram: Slamming the left for calling him an American and Zionist agent, Congress candidate Shashi Tharoor said the same parties had unanimously supported him when the US had vetoed his candidature for the UN secretary general post.
Tharoor, who is locked in a grim battle against a local CPI leader for the Lok Sabha seat from here, is campaigning hard to get rid of the outsider tag and establish his Malayali credentials.
In an interview to PTI, Tharoor accused the Left of carrying out a smear campaign against him and hurling unfounded charges to avoid a meaningful debate on issues.
“This is not something new from the Left. They have often dragged down the opponents by hurling baseless charges to skip on issues like of development,” Tharoor, slugging out in the mid-summer heat, said.
“Frankly, there is an irony in it. When American vetoed my candidature for the UN secretary general, Prakash Karat (CPI-M general secretary) wrote an article in Peoples Democracy condemning the American stand. Another expert in Deshabhimani (CPI-M mouthpiece in Malayalam) wrote on similar lines. But without any embarrassment these people now go on saying that I am an American agent,” Tharoor said.
The presence of BJP’s PK Krishnadas and BSP’s A Neelalohithadasan Nadar has given a multi-corner dimension to the fight for the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat.
“I have 25 years of record in secularism. I had no reservation in outrightly condemning the Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat riots,” Tharoor expressed, referring to Left party’s allegations that he was anti-Palestine.
Pitted against CPI’s local leader P Ramachandran Nair, he said what was important was that he (Tharoor) remained a pro-Indian while working in international forums and had never missed any opportunity to promote India.
He also rubbished the charge that having lived abroad for long, he has no real grasp of the problems here.
Accusing Nair, who won the seat in 2004 polls, of doing nothing to develop the constituency, he said he was the first one in the fray to come out with a vision plan for Thiruvananthapuram to make it an internationally reputed destination of higher education and tourism.
“Many critics are bereft of issues. They are afraid of entering into a debate on development. The last two MPs the constituency had were from CPI. They have nothing much to show of record. The CPI has refrained from renominating the sitting MP fearing certain defeat,” he said.
Tharoor, who spoke in fluent Malayalam at campaign meetings, said he was not expecting some personal advantage from politics but only asking for an opportunity to serve his home state.
Clad in a khadi dhoti and pristine white shirt with sleeves folded up, Tharoor said he was confident that he can be a more effective representative of Thiruvananthapuram in Parliament.
Claiming that he had a “perspective plan to make the city into a global centre of excellence in higher education, Tharoor said just as the USP of the American city Boston is education facilities, Thiruvananthapuram too can have a world class university, IIT and other campus of higher learning.
“Another idea is twinning concept, where the city can enter into serious partnership with a global city with similar features and experience,” he said.
He said his other development plans include Vizhinjam deep port and national highway development, promotion of tourism through public-private partnership, imparting momentum to long-pending schemes like Vizhinjam and markets for fish and other marine products.
Though not a hard-grind politician, he said party workers had been whole-heartedly co-operating in the campaign in the length and breadth of the constituency.
“The traditional wisdom here is that the Congress workers may be slightly slow in getting off the mark but very good at sprinting to the finishing line. I am pretty satisfied with the way the things are moving,” he added.