By Paritosh Chakma
All of a sudden there is a mad rush among the (Congress party) politicians to prove themselves "austere" to win the hearts of the aam admi , i.e. the electorate. After, Sonia Gandhi travelled in economy class and her son Rahul took the Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi Express, everybody wanted to turn austere to please the Congress boss. So much so that Union Minister Salman Khurshid had to issue a warning that “vulgar display” of austerity should be discouraged. Mr Khurshid argued that "Austerity is something intrinsic and very personal".
There is however some mismatch. For example, Rahul Gandhi reportedly told reporters, "As a politician, you have a duty to be austere,” but his visit to Tamil Nadu to strengthen the Youth Congress cost Rs 1 crore from Congress' purse. No matter, who is paying the money.
Even Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs has claimed that he was paying from his own pocket, not taxpayers' money, for staying in 5-star hotel but was ordered to leave by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and shift to State Guest House.
Recent tweets in social networking site "Twitter.Com" however invited trouble for Mr Tharoor, a novice in politics after he tweetted - "absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!", in reply to a query whether he was ready to travel "cattle class". He was reprimanded by the Congress party, and Rajasthan CM went further ahead to demand his resignation. Luckily for Mr Tharoor, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the minister's remark was "a joke", and should not be taken seriously.
On his part, Mr Tharoor clarified that "cattle class" is "a silly expression but means no disrespect to economy travellers, only to airlines for herding us in like cattle" and said sorry for the misunderstanding. He told another important thing: people do not have humour to accept humour. So, what is the fuss about calling economy class a "cattle class". The Gandhis may be travelling in economy class or boarding a train now to emulate the experiences of the common man, but how long? They will never be common men - "aam admi". I hope they also realized that there exist something called "sleeping class" in train and ordinary people do not travel with heavy security around them. Politicians enjoying z-security should never travel in train or on the road. This only leads to chaos and creates untold problems for the citizenry. They are heavenly people - austerity is not meant for them. As I understand, politicians are more hurt by Mr Tharoors observation because he stingingly refered to the "holy cows" which the majority politicians see they are. But Mr Tharoor clarified, "holy cows are NOT individuals but sacrosanct issues or principles that no one dares challenge".
Another truth that emerges from the present controversy is that "indeed, we lack humour". While not many politicians are net-savvy, poor Shashi will continue to bear the brunt for his tweets. But Shashi must also realize there are millions across the globe who are behind him. I am one of them.