Indian Shastra – Shashi Tharoor and Mihir Sharma at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

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(Left to right – Shashi Tharoor, Amrita Tripathi, Mihir Sharma)

Amidst the scores that have gathered, you can almost be certain that everyone in the Front Lawns of the Jaipur Literature Festival has come together to discuss not only the Modi mania that hovered over most of 2014 but to also hear what Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor has to say about the political scenario that has drastically changed over the past year.

Primarily present to discuss their books; Tharoor his 15th -“The Indian Shastra” and Mihir Sharma – “Restart: The Last chance on the Indian Economy”, Tharoor begins by introducing his book which talks about the transformation of the political and economic scenario that paints a picture of contemporary India from the perspective of the unforgettable year ,2014.

1000x1000As Amrita Tripathi requests Tharoor to read out an excerpt from his book, he happily obliges. “With Narendra Modi, the nation’s new Prime Minister dominating the political scene, there are signs that the nation is moving in directions that will benefit its people, but at the same time there are concerns about the rise of majoritarianism and religion fundamentalism”, he reads out. Understandably, Tharoor chooses to kick start the session with his reservations of the current Indian Shastra. The audience is already considerably engaged.

“Modi has had his honeymoon period”, Tripathi says. Clearly the Modi topic is clearly not one to be kept at bay. “We don’t have a template as to what this government proposes to do”, says Mihir Sharma, and Tharoor is quick to add, “If the Modi government does not present a game plan at the budget, a lot of difficult questions can arise.” It is evident to the audiences now that both Tharoor and Sharma are on the same side.

“The last budget was merely a name-changing budget. Not a game-changing one,” Tharoor scathingly comments on the budget that failed to impress. “I do worry, whether we have the vision without the implementation.” Tharoor has forever been so eloquent with his words and even when he criticises the now government, his words seem like music. But not all of the session was mere Modi criticism. Mihir Sharma confidently speaks, “He is undoubtedly one of the most popular leaders in political history. He can actually build a political consensus for reformations.” Ah, finally some relief for all the Modi supporters in the audience.

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As the conversation progresses, Tharoor recollects his term as the Human Resource Development Minister and tells the audience what he learnt on the job. “We have to understand education as not just a matter of employment but a matter of national security. In a country of 1.2 billion, we have a nationwide shortage of masons and plumbers. Why?” Clearly education and skill development are factors that still continue to be a pressing issue in the present government. And what is the most important lesson that Tharoor learnt from his days as minister? “For every dysfunctional body in our country, someone has learned to manipulate from it,” says Tharoor, rather cynically. The audience smirks. Finally, an honest answer on the working of our government bodies.

As the floor opens to the audience, it is no surprise that most questions are directed towards Shashi Tharoor. As he answers a barrage of questions, undoubtedly the most memorable answer would be his response to a question on the nationwide campaign of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Tharoor responds nonchalantly, Ultimately, if we don’t get beyond the slogans and the photo ops of the idea, then the hollowness and the shallowness behind this novel idea will be exposed”. The audience is amused yet again. This man sure has his way with words.

As he answers the last question of the session, Tharoor makes sure that his last response resounds in the ear of every man. “What is your advice to your fellow countrymen?” Tharoor smiles, “Hope,because hope is what makes this country great. “

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About Mihir Sharma

Mihir S. Sharma was born in Delhi and grew up in Chandigarh, Mumbai, Jamshedpur and in Kolkata. He was trained as an economist and a political scientist before dropping ignobly out of academia. Like many others unable to concentrate on any one thing long enough to write a dissertation, he drifted from one thing to another till he found the closest thing to paid unemployment in a capitalist society-journalism. He now writes and edits opinion for the Business Standard newspaper in New Delhi.

In Restart, Mihir S. Sharma shows what can and must change in India’s policies, its administration and even its attitudes. The answers he provides are not obvious, and require courage. Nor are they all comforting or conventional. Yet they could, in less time than you can imagine, unleash the creativity of a billion hopeful Indians.

Get your copy of ‘Restart: The Last Chance for the Indian Economy’ by Mihir Sharma: http://bit.ly/1CCu48P

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About Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor is the prize-winning author of ten books, both fiction and non-fiction, and a widely published critic, commentator and columnist (including for The Hindu, Times of India and Newsweek). In 2007 he concluded a nearly twenty-nine-year career with the United Nations, including working for refugees in South-East Asia at the peak of the ‘boat people’ crisis, handling peace-keeping operations in the former Yugoslavia, and culminating as the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. In 2006 he was India’s candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General, and emerged a strong second out of seven contenders.

In his book Pax Indica, which is a lively, informative and insightful work, the award-winning author and parliamentarian brilliantly demonstrates how Indian diplomacy has become sprightlier since then and where it needs to focus in the world of the 21st century. Explaining why foreign policy matters to an India focused on its own domestic transformation, Tharoor surveys India’s major international relationships in detail, evokes the country’s soft power and its global responsibilities, analyses the workings of the Ministry of External Affairs, parliament and public opinion on the shaping of policy, and offers his thoughts on a contemporary new “grand strategy” for the nation, arguing that India must move beyond non-alignment to “multi-alignment”.

Buy your copy of Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor here: http://bit.ly/1zGwYcS

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