- Mr Tharoor had described Mr Surya as smart, passionate and talented
- Many protested the remarks, asked him to "call a spade a spade"
- Mr Tharoor said his "message got lost in your outrage"
Faced with accusations of going soft on the anti-Muslim rhetoric around BJP MP Tejasvi Surya's allegations of a corruption scandal in the Bengaluru municipal body's Covid response, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Friday clarified his recent remarks, saying "there is no space for normalising bigotry".
Mr Surya, the Bangalore South MP, has been in news in connection with his allegations of irregularities in the bed allotment system of the municipal corporation controlled by the BJP at a time Karnataka is battling a surge in Covid cases.
The 30-year-old politician recently visited a Covid war room of the corporation, read out names of Muslim staff members and questioned the process of hiring them.
"Who are all these people? First shift, second shift, night shift. 17 people in the list in three shifts. I will read the list. What was the process of hiring? 17 people. Who are these people?," he is heard asking in a video.
MLA Ravi Subramanya, Mr Surya's uncle who was with him, is heard asking, "Have you appointed them for the madrassa or the Corporation?"
Soon after, the list of 16 names started circulating on social media with the caption: "List of people working in the BBMP War Room killing thousands of Bengalurians".
Social media posts also targeted Bengaluru civic body commissioner Sarfaraz Khan.
Sharing a news report on the episode, Mr Tharoor tweeted, "My young colleague @Tejasvi_Surya is smart, passionate & talented. But I urge him to avoid this kind of behaviour..."
1/4 The words I used to describe a LokSabha colleague have genuinely upset a lot of people, including some who've been my well-wishers. Like you, I disapprove of his recent & past actions. It was out of solidarity w/the 17 youth who unjustly were affected that I tweeted at all.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 7, 2021
3/4 "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down", goes the saying: I see many of my friends spat out the sugar & ignored the medicine. I understand you felt my "sugarcoating" mollycoddled the offender & normalised his inexcusable conduct. That wasn't my intention.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 7, 2021
4/4 That's why I'm issuing this statement to clarify my position. Unlike most of my critics, I need to continue to work with MPs of different parties, &convictions opposed to mine, in the LokSabha. But I agree fully with my critics - there is NO space for normalising bigotry. END— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 7, 2021
The remarks triggered sharp protests, with many accusing the Congress MP of not censuring Mr Surya strongly enough and asking him to "call a spade a spade".
In response, Mr Tharoor tweeted, "...Like you, I disapprove of his recent & past actions. It was out of solidarity w/the 17 youth who unjustly were affected that I tweeted at all."
He said he knows Mr Surya as a member of a parliamentary committee he chairs and sees qualities that can be "put to better use than to stoke communalism".
He said his "message got lost in your outrage". He said he did not intend to normalise the "inexcusable" conduct.
Mr Tharoor said he needs to work with MPs of different parties but added that he agrees with his critics that "there is NO space for normalising bigotry".