Shashi Tharoor is the Congress' Lok Sabha MP from Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram seat (File)
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said today he had been left "appalled by the vicious backlash" that followed his tweeting best wishes this week to senior BJP leader LK Advani on his 94th birthday.
Mr Tharoor slammed the lack of civility in the country's political discourse and offered a reminder of Mahatma Gandhi's lesson - to "respect and honour the humanity in our political opponents", and took a dig at his critics, suggesting "... seems that makes me a Sanghi sympathiser".
"I am frankly appalled by the vicious backlash against my birthday greetings to LK Advaniji. Has civility disappeared entirely from our political discourse? Gandhiji taught us to respect and honour the humanity in our political opponents. It seems that now makes me a Sanghi sympathiser!"
"In fact, Gandhiji taught us to fight sin but love (and embrace) the sinner. Ahimsa is "a positive state of love... of doing good even to the evildoer". While good and evil are Gandhian terms I can't easily use (most human beings are shades of both), I deplore intolerance on either side," Mr Tharoor said.
"So yes, I intend to continue to wish LK Advani and PM Modi well on their birthdays, while opposing what they stand for politically. My 40 years of writing makes clear what I believe in. Only those who haven't read me would call me a Sanghi. My values won't be discarded for them," he concluded.
The controversy erupted over Mr Tharoor's tweet on Monday, in which he described Mr Advani as "a fine human being" and "a gentleman in politics".
"Warm wishes for a fine human being, a gentleman in politics, a leader of wide reading and great courtesy," the Congress leader wrote, adding the hashtag "#HappyBirthdayLKAdvani".
The tweet drew critical comments and several questioned Mr Tharoor for wishing a rival credited with the BJP's rise to prominence on the back of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the late 80s.
Mr Advani is widely seen as having crafted Hindutva politics and spearheading the BJP, and its forerunner - the Jana Sangh, for decades, with the late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Mr Tharoor did wish Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday too (in September), although he did take the opportunity for a swipe over his government's performance.
"Wishing PM Modiji happy birthday and many healthy years in service of the nation. May he be able to work more successfully in the next two, to ensure 'vikas' (development) actually dawns in our country and is truly 'sab ka' and 'sab ka saath'! May he create work for the Indian people too," he tweeted.