Tharoor meets Sonia, Manmohan, Pranab (Lead)September 22nd, 2009 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS) Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor Tuesday met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee following his return from Africa during which a controversy erupted over his “cattle class” remarks that were criticised by his own party.
Tharoor met Gandhi in the morning and shared impressions of his visit to Liberia and Ghana, two countries that seek close ties with India, officials said. According to informed sources, Tharoor also explained the context of his cattle class tweet that set off critical reactions with at least one Congress leader demanding his resignation over remarks seen as “callous and insensitive” towards India’s economy-class travelling passengers.
According to the sources, all the meetings were sought by Tharoor. He explained how he had responded to a message on the social networking site Twitter that wanted to know whether, in view of the austerity measures being enforced by his party, he would continue to travel “cattle class” - a popular slang for economy class - and he reacted by tweeting that he would travel “cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows”.
All three leaders, according to the sources, were very understanding and advised him on how to exercise discretion while dealing with sensitive issues that could get leaked to the media.
It is understood that the Congress, whose spokesperson had said on Sep 18 that the party would take “appropriate action” against him had been asked not to pursue that line following directions from the ‘high command’. Apparently, the party spokespersons had spoken on the issue without proper authorisation, the sources said.
Some Congress leaders like Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Rural Development Minister C.P. Joshi also demanded Tharoor’s resignation for the remarks. However, Manmohan Singh sought to downplay Tharoor’s remark at his Iftar party, saying it was just “a joke”.
Sources also said much of the misunderstanding over his colloquial remark was because of the local language translation that made his impromptu remarks take on a completely different meaning that bordered on the offensive. Some of the reactions to them were, in fact, in reaction to the remarks that appeared in the Hindi, Tamil and the Malayalam media.
Sources in the know say all the three leaders are quite fond of Tharoor and it was Pranab Mukherjee who had suggested that Tharoor join politics in India after his UN secretary general bid didn’t succeed, an idea that was supported by both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi.
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Tags: austerity, class remarks, close ties, congress leader, congress leaders, congress president sonia gandhi, critical reactions, development minister, economy class, finance minister, holy cows, manmohan, manmohan singh, pranab mukherjee, prime minister manmohan, prime minister manmohan singh, proper authorisation, sensitive issues, social networking site, twitter