‘Snollygoster’, ‘patriotism v nationalism’, ‘info blanketing’ take centre stage at Tharoor’s valedictory at Hyderabad Lit Fest

The Congress leader explained that "patriots are prepared to die for the country" while "nationalists are prepared to kill for the country".

ByAjay Tomar

Published Jan 29, 2024 | 7:06 PMUpdatedJan 29, 2024 | 7:06 PM

MP Shashi Tharoor at the Hyderabad Literature Festival. (Ajay Tomar/South First)

Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor’s much-anticipated valedictory was welcomed by a crowd of around 400 to 500 people on the concluding day of the 15th edition of the Hyderabad Literary Festival on Sunday, 28 January.

The vibrant and humorous session was moderated by Sunitha Reddy, a freelance journalist.

Responding to a question about his rich vocabulary towards the end of the session, the Congress leader also reiterated his “snollygoster” dig at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, which he posted earlier in the day on X.

“It means a shrewd unprincipled politician. Its first use was in the US in 1845. Its latest use is today,” Tharoor quipped before receiving a roaring applause from the audience.

Tharoor also made a distinction between the idea of patriotism and nationalism, citing his book The Battle of Belonging.

The Congress leader also remarked that “patriots are prepared to die for the country”, while “nationalists are prepared to kill for the country”.

Also Read: No ‘fix all’ formula across states for seat-sharing, says Tharoor

Civic-nationalism under duress

Evoking the idea of nationalism, Tharoor divided the concept into two parts — anti-colonial and civic. While the former was used against fighting the British, the latter is upholding the Constitution and its values, he explained.

In a veiled attack on the BJP-led Union government, he noted that the civic-nationalism was under duress today as the government was trying to promote ethnic-religious nationalism.

During a discussion on his 2018 release The Paradoxical Prime Minister: Narendra Modi And His India, Tharoor highlighted that Prime Minister Modi’s idealised progressive vision had been achieved with the help of regressive political actions.

'Snollygoster', 'patriotism v nationalism', 'info blanketing' take centre stage at Tharoor valedictory at Hyderabad Lit Fest

Audience hooked to the session at the final day of the HLF. (Ajay Tomar/South First)

“It is a tragedy that I could not read it before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as it was released only a year ago. Otherwise, the outcome would have changed,” Tharoor said and broke into laughter.

As the discussion turned to his other two biographies on former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Constitution architect BR Ambedkar, Tharoor stressed his admiration for them.

He also never shied away from pointing out the strengths and failures of the former prime minister in Pride, Prejudice, and Punditry.

Reflecting on his Ambedkar: A Life, Tharoor pointed to the irony that Ambedkar, who was opposed to statues, now has one in almost every village.

“More statues of Ambedkar are there these days than Gandhi or any other leader. He never wanted statues but the freedom of people from social oppression,” Tharoor said.

Tharoor also mentioned his first book The Great Indian Novel, where he revisited the scenes from the world’s longest epic, the Mahabharata.

Calling it a “secular” epic, he added that the setting of his book reverberated with the Indian Independence movement and the first three decades after that.

Giving a glimpse of his upcoming book Wonderland of Words, Tharoor noted that it revolves around the evolution of the English language from its origin to the current Gen-Z form.

Also Read: Shashi Tharoor calls for a new southern consciousness

BJP bombarding on social media

'Snollygoster', 'patriotism v nationalism', 'info blanketing' take centre stage at Tharoor valedictory at Hyderabad Lit Fest

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor giving an autograph on a book authored by him. (Ajay Tomar/South First)

Taking a swipe at the BJP, Tharoor claimed that the social media cell of the saffron party was “tactically bombarding” the minds of citizens with the help of social media platforms.

“Be it WhatsApp, memes, talks, or any other platform, they are tactically bombarding the minds of people with their ideologies,” the three-time Parliamentarian said, adding that people with a “creative mindset” are also exercising caution and hesitating to call out the ruling regime.

Elaborating further, he told South First, “We’re hearing more and more now that there is a blanketing of the information space by the very effective social media outreach of the ruling party. Conversely, some people are a little afraid to come out because the consequences may impede their livelihood, their visibility, their careers, and so on.”

He added, “It may affect their possibilities of living in a society as well as when somebody who tells jokes against the government finds that his appearances are being cancelled by organisers and that halls are not available for him. The country is changing and has changed in ways from what we all took for granted for many, many decades in India.”

Tharoor remarked that, on the contrary, those who supported the government were being given a free hand.