Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday said he had never justified Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s actions and had been a strong critic of the Bharatiya Janata Party government, PTI reported.

This came a day after the party’s Kerala unit asked Tharoor to clarify his remarks in support of party colleague Jairam Ramesh, who asked the Congress to stop demonising Modi. On August 23, Tharoor had claimed he had argued for six years that the prime minister should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, thereby adding credibility to the Opposition’s criticisms whenever he errs.

“I have been a strong critic of the Modi government and I hope a constructive one,” the parliamentarian from Thiruvananthapuram said in an email reply to state Congress President Mullappally Ramachandran.

A number of state Congress leaders such as Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and MPs K Muraleedharan, Benny Behanan and TN Prathapan have criticised Tharoor.

In his reply, Tharoor asked the state Congress leadership to examine his recent debates in Parliament. He asked Ramachandran to name one other leader from the state who had made at least 10% of his efforts to “study, research and oppose” the government on the bills introduced “against the spirit of our Constitution and the values of the Congress party”.

The Congress leader claimed he had intervened more than 50 times in Parliament and had spoken against 17 bills with “courage and conviction”.

“Can any of my critics from Kerala say they have done so?” he asked. “Who on earth can credibly accuse me of a ‘volte face’ from the stand I took when I sat alongside you in the last Lok Sabha?”

Tharoor said he had used the power of his pen and his credibility as an author “to write the most comprehensive, and most successful, critique of the Modi government’s first term, The Paradoxical Prime Minister”. This was not the “work of someone who seeks to ‘justify’ Mr Modi in any shape or form”, he added.

Tharoor said the “outcry” against him was based on “hysterical reactions to distorted reporting of a single tweet”. “I issued supporting remarks made by Jairam Ramesh and Abhishek Singhvi, whose credentials as strong leaders of the party – and official spokesmen of the AICC – both you and I are aware of.”

The MP said Modi had done little worth praising. “But he has been effective in raising his vote percentage across India from 31% in 2014 to 37% in 2019, and as a party which stayed at around 19% in both elections, we in the Congress need to make an effort to understand why,” he added.

“Clearly enough voters thought he was delivering something for them – we need to acknowledge that, but point out its limitations: yes, he built toilets, but 60% of them don’t have running water; yes, he gave poor rural women gas cylinders, but 92% of them can’t afford refills,” Tharoor wrote.

The parliamentarian said if the Congress acts “as if he has done nothing, however flawed, and people still voted for him, then we are saying that people are stupid, which is not a position that wins you votes”. Tharoor urged the party leadership to take necessary steps to bring back the Congress to power.

Tharoor’s statement came on a day Congress leader and former Union minister M Veerappa Moily blamed Jairam Ramesh for the “policy paralysis” during the second tenure of the United Progressive Alliance government. Moily also said Tharoor was an immature politician.

Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.