Far be it for me to advise Sonia Gandhi from far away, but rapping Shashi Tharoor on his knuckles for making allegedly intemperate remarks in Parliament against Congress strategy may not be the most prudent thing to do right now.
Mr. Tharoor's voice -- on virtually any topic -- is heard globally through his public appearances and columns and books, even if people don't necessarily agree with his views. He may have extremely high self regard, and he may be a maestro at promoting himself. But his is the only voice that the Indian National Congress possesses that is consistently projected in all quarters, particularly among India's young, who constitute 75 percent of the country's population of 1.3 billion.
Of course, self promotion is the currency of politics everywhere, and the U.S.-educated Tharoor is using it to his great advantage. His pronouncements -- often erudite and witty -- are heard, and they generate buzz. The Indian and international media are enthralled by him. Every detail of his life is highlighted in print and broadcast journalism, not to mention that he has more than two million followers on Twitter, second only to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. We know where his multi-style wardrobe comes from, we know what he likes to eat, we know his taste in women and entertainment. A glaring gap in such personal information is that the media haven't -- yet -- found out which brand of toothpaste he uses.
The moribund Congress needs Mr. Tharoor's voice. Now that the murder investigation of his third wife Sunanda Pushkar seems to have melted away -- no doubt under political pressure from somewhere -- the shroud of gossip, suspicion and speculation over Mr. Tharoor's head since Sunanda's murder in January 2014 is likely to evaporate.
Safe from unpleasant scrutiny, Mr. Tharoor therefore is likely to become an even greater asset to Sonia's Congress, especially since her own son Rahul has hardly attracted applause for his thinking or oratory or political abilities. She might want to restrain her public scolding of the former United Nations diplomat.
Then there's always the possibility that Prime Minister Modi may make an offer to Mr. Tharoor; it would involve shifting Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to the human resources ministry, and giving the incompetent incumbent Smriti Irani some other position in order to save her face, and that of the ruling BJP.
Mr. Tharoor would certainly make a dynamic Minister of External Affairs (no pun intended). His Rolodex is enviable. And the Congress would have lost an eloquent voice, and Sonia would have -- at least cosmetically -- lost a very, very close friend.
Politics is not only the art of the possible, it also involves employing the science of compromise and calculus. I would think that the BJP and its handmaiden, the Hindu fundamentalist group, the RSS, might welcome Mr. Tharoor into their fold: he is, after all, born Hindu, no matter that he's a genuine secularist. Of course, there are as many definitions of secularism as there are Hindu deities. Mr. Tharoor is adept at adapting himself to every occasion where being billed as a secularist or rabid fundamentalist is an important prerequisite.
Moreover, Mr. Tharoor is extremely ambitious and would seem a natural successor to Mr. Modi, should such a time come -- especially since the BJP currently doesn't have a deep bench of potential prime ministers.
Politics is a game, and Shashi Tharoor has learned to play it very well in the decade since his much heralded return to his native land from long years abroad. So what if he loses some friends in the process of switching political affiliations? To paraphrase the late US President Harry Truman, if you want a real friend in any political capital, go get yourself a dog.
I don't know if Mr. Tharoor likes canines, but he may well acquire one for political expediency. Imagine the photo-ops: Prime Minister in waiting walking his pooch along the wide boulevards of New Delhi. Even the dog will soon learn to relish the attention. As the old Indian saying goes, follow your guru, even with baying reporters and photographers tracing your every step or paw print.
Interesting and intriguing days lie ahead. Stay tuned -- it'll be "All Tharoor, All the Time."