Tharoor tweet kicks up row; words twisted, says Cong leader

PTI
Saturday, 30 March 2019

"Found a lot of enthusiasm at the fish market, even for a squeamish, vegetarian MP," Tharoor had later tweeted.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor found himself on a sticky wicket on Saturday as his tweet, following a visit to the fish market here, kicked up a row, with the CPI(M) and the BJP alleging that he had insulted the fishermen community and demanded an apology.

Reacting to the row, the former Union minister, who is trying to score a hat-trick from the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat, claimed his words had been "deliberately twisted" to show that he had insulted the fisherfolk.

"My words have been twisted to create misunderstanding," he told reporters here.

Tharoor had visited a fish market in the state capital recently during his campaign and spoken to the women selling fish there. He later also posted some pictures of his visit.

"Found a lot of enthusiasm at the fish market, even for a squeamish, vegetarian MP," Tharoor had later tweeted.

As controversy erupted over the use of the word "squeamish", Tharoor in another tweet quoted the meaning of the word from an online English-Malayalam dictionary.

"For those Malayali leftist politicians who are currently having difficulty understanding my English," he tweeted.

In another tweet, Tharoor wrote "order delivered" and put its word by word Malayalam translation as "Kalpana prasavichu" (Kalpana has given birth)" to pinpoint the pitfalls in translations.

The ruling CPI(M) in Kerala and the BJP attacked the Congress MP, saying he had insulted the fishermen community by his choice of words.

BJP candidate Kummanam Rajasekharan said Tharoor should apologise as his act of "humiliating" the fishermen community through social media was "extremely deplorable".

He had insulted the fishermen community who had saved several lives during the devastating floods in August last year, the former Mizoram governor said.

Fishermen took out marches in Kochi, Kollam and Kozhikode against the tweet, saying they had been insulted.

During the August floods last year, it was the fisherfolk who saved thousands of lives, they said and demanded an apology from the two-time sitting MP.

Responding to the allegation against him, the Congress leader said, "By describing myself as a squeamish vegetarian, I have made fun of myself and it was never intended to humiliate anyone. Despite being a vegetarian, the fisherwomen have shown so much affection towards me. That is what I have tried to convey through the tweet."

"In my family, except me, all are fish eaters, he said.

Hitting out at the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala and the BJP, he alleged they were trying to propagate lies to win the election.

"The opposition should stop the false propaganda and the Election Commission should intervene," he said, adding the media should also focus on real issues.

Tharoor said when Cyclone Ockhi hit the shores of Thiruvananthapuram in 2017, he had contacted various leaders, including Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Nitin Gadkari, and sought help for fishermen out to the sea.

Those who had not done anything were criticising him using one word in his tweet, Tharoor said.

The Congress leader had in February recommended Kerala fishermen, whose deeds of courage were the highlight of rescue operations during the 2018 floods in the state, for the Nobel Peace prize.

"It was during the height of this tragedy that fishermen groups of Kerala, at great risk to their lives and potential damage to the boats that are the source of their livelihood, jumped to save their fellow citizens," Tharoor had written to the chairperson of the Norwegian Nobel committee. 

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