We need more professionals in politics: Shashi Tharoor (Interview)

May 21st, 2009 - 4:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Manish Chand
New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) Shashi Tharoor, the newly-elected MP from Thiruvananthapuram, hopes his victory will spur “a new generation of professionals, intellectuals and thinkers” to take the plunge and make a difference to the political life in India.

“What we need are professionals, intellectuals and thinkers who had other kinds of work experiences than politics to bring their different mindsets into the political process,” Tharoor, the former UN undersecretary-general who narrowly lost the battle to be the secretary-general, told IANS in a wide-ranging conversation at his suite in Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi.

“Professional politicians are fine. But they need to be balanced by people from other professional backgrounds who can make a contribution that will broaden the scope of politics in India. The country needs them as it moves into the 21st century.”

This new politics, Tharoor stresses, will include a great focus on both “the software and hardware of development”.

“The challenge for me is to maintain a national vision for India and at the same time to focus on the nuts and bolts of grassroot issues of my constituency,” he said. “Major issues confronting Thiruvananthapuram are in many sense a microcosm of similar issues confronting India.”

“We need to improve both the hardware (roads, airports and infrastructure) and software of development (human capital, education and health),” said Tharoor, 53, who has authored nine books, including “The Great Indian Novel” and the bestselling “From Midnight to the Millennium”.

Attacking the Left’s bleak record of delivery and governance in Kerala that turned out to be their nemesis in just-concluded elections, Tharoor said the appalling state of rural roads, an international airport which is still trying to internationalise for many decades and a major port which has been hanging fire for political reasons tell their own story.

“Thiruvananthapuram will never be New York or Washington but it can be Boston, a centre of higher education,” he said as he spoke about turning the Kerala capital, a city of a million people, into a truly global city, a knowledge centre and a hub of cutting-edge research in bio-technology

How does he see the larger message of the 2009 elections which voted in the Congress-led UPA with a bigger mandate? “There has been throughout India and in Kerala a certain rejection of misgovernance and poor governance and a reward for good governance. That’s why the Left in West Bengal and Kerala was hit so badly.”

“There was a perception that the Manmohan Singh government led the country in a very creative and constructive way. There was a desire to see Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and their team return,” he said.

Tharoor brushed aside speculation about his getting a position in the cabinet as a junior minister of foreign affairs.

“Frankly, I have no particular expectations. I am genuinely here as a first-time MP knowing and feeling strongly that making a difference to my constituents is ultimately what I am going to be judged by,” he said.

Although Tharoor stresses that his core responsibility is to improve the lives of the people of his constituency who elected him by the biggest margin in three decades, the man who lost narrowly to current incumbent Ban Ki-moon for the UN secretary general’s job is not averse to playing a role in the making of the country’s foreign policy.

As a parliamentarian, Tharoor said he will be interested in being in the foreign affairs committee and playing an active part in it.

Given his passion for development issues and his dream of turning Thiruvananthapuram into a global city, he said he would also like to be part of committee on urban development. He is also bristling with new ideas like forming a caucus of coastal MPs in parliament and pushing issues of ordinary fishermen.

Tharoor, who knows the UN system from inside, is all for India reviving its campaign for a seat in an expanded UN Security Council and playing a bigger role on the global stage. He, however, cautioned against India playing the role of “a great power in the military sense or in terms of hard power”.

“I don’t see ourselves flexing muscles around the globe. That’s just not India.

“I do see an enormous creative influence around the world through India’s soft power. The creative energies of the Indian people have made our society and values enormously appealing. That’s where our strength lies. We need to leverage soft power in a smart way.”

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