September 4, 2023

Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether Shashi Tharoor is a viable candidate for the post of Chief Minister in Kerala. We also look at the construction ban across the state in Himachal Pradesh, among other news.


Is Shashi Tharoor a viable candidate for the post of Chief Minister in Kerala?

(Image credits: Chatham House’s Flickr post)

Kerala is an interesting state in the grand scheme of Indian politics. Being in the south, it’s one of the states where the BJP/Hindutva narrative hasn’t taken hold compared to other parts. It’s largely seen as progressive with the Communist Party still in power, a rarity in India nowadays.

As the INDIA alliance takes shape against the BJP, the Congress is in a tricky position in Kerala. They’ve not had the best relationship with the current ruling party but know they can’t upset the apple cart. One person whose name has been bounced around as a possible Chief Ministerial candidate is Shashi Tharoor. A seasoned politician from the state, Tharoor could give the Congress a boost in Kerala. But is he an ideal candidate?


The general socio-political thought of the state is left-wing and centre-left. For decades, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) made strides. The northern parts of the state are generally seen as a heartland of communist support.

As far as the Congress is concerned, they led the United Democratic Front (UDF), which was formed by the party leader K Karunakaran in 1978. Since the 1980s, they’ve taken on the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF). The UDF has had considerable success in the state despite stiff competition from the communist parties. Ernakulam and Kottayam are seen as their strongholds.

The Kerala Congress has had quite a ride in the state, with splits and factions galore over the decades. It goes back to 1964 and the death of Congress leader PT Chacko. His associates KM George and R Balakrishna Pillai formed the Kerala Congress. It won 26 seats in the 1965 assembly elections. Since then, it’s been a merry-go-round and see-saw of leaders forming their own factions with mixed results.

Kerala has seen many famed political leaders who’ve all made their impressions on the state’s political scene. The likes of VK Krishna Menon, Oman Chandy, Mohammed Abdur Rahiman, and K Karunakaran come to mind.

Among the contemporaries is Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. An alumnus of the prestigious St. Stephen’s College Delhi, Tharoor worked with the United Nations from 1978 to 2007. In 2006, he came in second behind Ban Ki-moon for the post of UN Secretary-General. Electoral politics back home was on the agenda. He joined the Congress in 2009 and successfully contested elections, winning the Thiruvananthapuram seat.

He was the Minister of State for External Affairs from 2009-2010 in charge of Africa, the Gulf, and Latin America. He was also Minister of Human Resource Development from 2012-2014. In this role, he took an interest in several issues like education and research. In 2014, he was re-elected from Thiruvananthapuram.

Tharoor has usually played a role on the national and international stages and rumbling about his possible candidature for Kerala Chief Minister surfaced earlier this year. When asked about it, he responded, “How can I say I’m not interested?” He later backtracked on that statement. But would he be a good fit for the role?

VIEW: Natural choice

Tharoor’s political ambitions are clear. He ran to be the head of the Congress party but lost. However, that didn’t dampen his spirits or aspirations. He didn’t lash out at the party leadership. After the loss, he has shown interest in Kerala politics, where he’d be a natural fit. He knows the state. Some say he sees Kerala politics as his calling. His karmabhoomi, as he once put it.

His campaign from the state holds clues as to why he’d be a good fit. He reached the Lok Sabha thrice pretty much on his own, especially the third time when many senior leaders were absent in his campaign. Instead, all he needed was his ability to connect with his constituents on the ground. You could say the wins were more his than the party’s. When he ran for Congress president, he saw how tough things would be and how getting people on your side is a tall order.

In Kerala, religion and caste are deeply rooted and influential. He makes a point to meet leaders from various communities while maintaining his secular credentials. Some might see his views on not equating Hinduism and Hindutva as controversial. His book “Why I am a Hindu” is an example. He visits temples without apology. But that doesn’t mean he’s appeasing them. He has defeated Hindutva proponents in a Hindu-majority constituency. He’s also got an ally in the Muslim League who gave him a warm welcome in Panakkad last November.

COUNTERVIEW: Not a good fit

When whispers of his possible candidature for Chief Minister came to the fore, Tharoor was criticised by state leaders, including state unit president K Sudhakaran. Ever since Tharoor joined the party in 2009 from Kerala, the state machinery hasn’t exactly warmed up to him. They see him as an elite outsider who saw it convenient to join the Congress when they were in power at the Centre.

The fact that senior state leaders weren’t exactly thrilled about his candidature for Congress president should be a sign that Kerala isn’t Tharoor-country yet. If he wants to become Chief Minister, following the path of his Lok Sabha victories won’t suffice. He’ll need the state party firmly behind him. Some of his apolitical tendencies might be off-putting, especially when polarisation works so well.

There’s also the fact that Tharoor hasn’t always towed the Congress line on some issues. The entry of women into the Sabarimala temple and the privatisation of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport are examples. Ultimately it’ll come down to whether he has the broad support of the people of the state, not just one constituency. Past controversies involving alleged misuse of his office to get shares in an IPL franchise and the media and legal frenzy concerning his wife Sunanda Pushkar’s death, could be used against him.

Reference Links:

  • Shashi Tharoor for Congress president? Here’s a look at the Twitter favourite MP from Kerala – Livemint
  • Why the Congress in Kerala is a spent force – India Today
  • What makes electoral politics in Kerala unique? – Hindustan Times
  • What Shashi Tharoor’s diplomatic switch holds for Congress in Kerala – Deccan Herald
  • Why Shashi Tharoor remains persona non grata in Kerala Congress? – News Drum
  • More leaders target Shashi Tharoor over his CM aspirations – Deccan Herald

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Shashi Tharoor is a viable candidate for the post of Chief Minister in Kerala.

b) Shashi Tharoor isn’t a viable candidate for the post of Chief Minister in Kerala.


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Construction ban (Himachal Pradesh) – The state government has imposed a two-week ban on hill-cutting and private construction activities throughout the state until September 16. However, rebuilding efforts for disaster-affected buildings and roads are exempted. Additionally, the government has halted fresh planning and building permissions for commercial and tourism units in several districts including Shimla, Mandi, Kullu, Kangra, Solan, and Chamba.

Why it matters: The ban was initiated to allow over-saturated soil to stabilize following significant environmental disruptions like catastrophic landslides, land subsidence, and severe erosion which resulted in loss of lives and property during the monsoon season. The order emphasizes the need to regulate construction in major towns until the monsoon’s impact subsides. This decision aims to ensure human safety, protect the state’s fragile ecological environment, and prevent future damage.

University tussle (Bihar) – The Raj Bhavan and the Government of Bihar are in disagreement following a letter from the Governor’s office instructing Vice-Chancellors of all state universities to only adhere to orders issued by the Governor. In retaliation, the Education Department of Bihar sent a letter to the Raj Bhavan and the Vice-Chancellors, issuing a new set of directives. This conflict arose after the Governor, Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, reversed a decision by the Bihar Education Department to freeze bank accounts of two officials at Muzaffarpur’s Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar Bihar University.

Why it matters: This dispute highlights the ongoing power struggle between the Raj Bhavan and the Bihar government over the autonomy of state universities. The Governor’s move to bypass the state government’s directives raises questions about the roles and boundaries of governance. Such conflicts can impact the functioning and administration of educational institutions, potentially affecting students and faculty.

NIMSR’s inaugural batch (Nagaland) – The state’s premier medical institution, the Nagaland Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (NIMSR), has officially opened its doors by welcoming its maiden batch of 100 students. At the induction event in Kohima, Chief Secretary J Alam highlighted that this isn’t just the start of an academic year but the realization of Nagaland’s long-held vision of having its own medical institution. He expressed optimism about the transformative impact NIMSR would have on the state’s healthcare landscape.

Why it matters: The initiation of NIMSR is a landmark achievement for Nagaland, reflecting its dedication to advancing medical education and addressing healthcare needs. As the state’s pioneering medical college, NIMSR is poised to produce future healthcare leaders and enhance the quality of medical services in the region.

Airline ambition (Karnataka) – The state government is contemplating the launch of its own airline to bolster intra-state flight connectivity. This announcement was made by the state’s Minister for Industries and Commerce, MB Patil. He emphasized that the move would bolster economic activities as all regions of Karnataka are slated to have airports in the near future. The minister revealed that the state government is currently seeking advice from business experts regarding this initiative, and if approved, it could be a game-changer for the state’s connectivity.

Why it matters: The introduction of a state-run airline in Karnataka signifies a significant step towards enhancing regional connectivity and fostering economic growth. By ensuring better accessibility to various parts of the state, it can stimulate trade, tourism, and other sectors. Moreover, with the state already operating the Kuvempu airport in Shivamogga and planning to inaugurate more airports, this move underscores Karnataka’s commitment to improving its transportation infrastructure.

Dry August (Goa) – August this year marked the driest month for Goa in several decades, with the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in Panjim recording a mere 289.4 mm of rainfall, in contrast to the typical 710 mm. Despite this, the seasonal total is approaching the normal range, largely due to the heavy rainfall of 1836.2 mm in July. This year’s weather patterns have been unusual, with the state experiencing its coldest January in five years and its hottest February and March in decades. Meteorologists attribute these erratic weather patterns to climate change factors and the potential influence of El Niño.

Why it matters: The significant drop in rainfall during August has implications for Goa’s agriculture, especially its paddy crop, which relies on consistent showers. The erratic weather patterns, including a delayed monsoon onset and weak rainfall in June, have disrupted farming operations.


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