New Delhi: The other day, senior Congress leader from Kerala Shashi Tharoor, known for his amazing prowess in English vocabulary, took a swipe at the Bharatiya Janata Party with yet another cracker of a word—allodoxaphobia. Tweeting his “word of the day”, Tharoor explained that “allodoxaphobia” means “an irrational fear of opinions”. Giving an example on how to use the word, the unputdownable Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram wrote, “The BJP government in UP slaps sedition and UAPA cases on people because it suffers from allodoxaphobia.” Explaining the word further, he wrote that in “Greek – Allo=different, doxo=opinion, phobos=fear.”

While scribbling this, little did Tharoor know that not only Adityanath and company in Uttar Pradesh, but also his own party colleagues in Kerala inexorably suffer from “allodoxaphobia”. Otherwise, how can one explain the furore Tharoor has created as in and as it is confused and rudderless Congress in his home state over a statement he made in support of state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s development policies.

Addressing a gathering at the inauguration of Lulu group’s new mall in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday, Tharoor praised Vijayan, saying he (Vijayan) as an administrator was “trying to change the impression that the southern state was not investment-friendly” Besides Pinarayi Vijayan and Yusuff Ali, chairman of the Lulu group, Congress’ Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan and leaders of other political parties were present on the podium. Tharoor said though in the past he had tried to attract many international investors to Kerala taking advantage of his stint at the United Nations, “they all eventually went to the neighbouring state citing the reasons of strikes, hartals, among others, in Kerala.” Tharoor went on, “However, our chief minister is trying to change the perspective and I feel that it is a good thing… We all know our (state’s) history and we cannot always export our unemployment to Gulf countries. We need to generate employment here and for that we need to instill confidence among the investors.”

Many eyebrows were raised on the podium itself. For, only a few days back, Tharoor had refused to sign a letter prepared by the MPs from Congress-led opposition UDF to the central government against the state government’s Silver Line semi-high speed rail corridor connecting state capital Thiruvananthapuram with Kerala’s northern district Kasaragod, bordering Karnataka. Tharoor had claimed that he had not yet studied the project thoroughly and hence refused to sign the same, though his party Congress had conducted a survey on its own about the feasibility of the project and found that the project would do more harm than good to the state.

At the Lulu function, the Thiruvananthapuram MP requested all other political parties in the state to stand together and send across a message that “Kerala is open for business”. “Let today’s inauguration be the beginning. Things are changing in Kerala. Let people come here. Our chief minister is ready to welcome them. Create jobs and opportunities for Keralites like M.A. Yusuf Ali did. Kerala will give you the opportunity to flourish and will not create hurdles in the way. We need to send this message across,” Tharoor concluded.

What made other senior state Congress leaders squirm at Tharoor’s words is the fact that Pinarayi Vijayan in his speech earlier had singled out Congress without naming it for blocking Kerala’s development. “They (it was obvious he was referring to Congress-led opposition) claim to stand for the common interest, but they are actually against the state and its development. We need to understand this. More investors like this need to come to our state. Our state is getting ready for more ventures like this. ..The people should understand about those who try to hinder our development activities,” Vijayan had said in his address.

The ongoing Rs 64,000crore Silver Line semi high-speed rail project of the Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail) cutting across Kerala is expected to connect the northern and southern end of the state in four hours instead of the present twelve. A smaller version of Narendra Modi’s Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train, K-Rail is Vijayan’s pet project and he has vowed to go ahead with it whatever the opposition be. Enthu vannalum nadappakkum (Will implement what may come), Vijayan had apparently told his party, CPM, which abides by whatever he says. Vijayan had also branded anyone and everyone who opposed the project as “sadists” out to torpedo the state’s development.

Congress, along with a host of experts and activists including Medha Patkar, has been in the forefront of the agitation against the project which many feel would literally divide the state vertically since a wall erected on both sides of the track will have around 13-15 metres height. Thousands of people will be displaced with no clear-cut rehabilitation plan on paper. Environmentalists have warned of a major ecological disaster, especially in the light of recurring floods in the state. Part of the Western Ghats, too, will be affected. It is said that the government has not taken all these into consideration and is bent upon the project only to justify its goal of development. There are even party journey men who fear that the project would turn out to be Pinarayi Vijayan’s Nandigrm-Singur moment.

Congress leaders have failed to see reason in Tharoor’s opinion. Prominent among them is former state president of the party Mullapplly Ramachandran. “Tharoor is bound to take a stance in line with party discipline as the party discipline is applicable to him as well. Even a small child knows the side-effects of the rail project,” Mullapplly has said. Chorus for action against Tharoor is gaining momentum. By Friday evening, state Congress president K. Sudharakaran had said he would ask for an explanation from Tharoor.

Tharoor has his own reasons to stick his neck out. Right from the day he came to contest from Kerala a decade ago, Tharoor has never been part of the Congress herd in Kerala. He has been a loner and has held on to his beliefs, especially when it comes to the “good of his constituency”. Also, good old Trivandrum has lived up to its reputation of voting for personalities rather than political parties. After all, it is the constituency that provided a platform for the late V.K. Krishna Menon when almost everyone had written him off. Tharoor knows it all. Not long ago, Tharoor had come out in support of Adani take-over of the Trivandrum International Airport, much to the annoyance of his own party and the ruling CPM. But Tharoor stood his ground. With his open backing of Vijayan, there is already speculation in political circles that Tharoor is trying to be on the safe side in case he is not with Congress in 2024.

Tharoor is unfazed over the criticism from his own party. Immediately after the demand for disciplinary action against him, Tharoor tweeted with a photograph of him with Pinarayi Vijayan: “Enjoyed discussing Kerala’s development with CM Pinarayi Vijayan. On some issues it is necessary to put political differences aside & get on with growth. The young people of our state deserve opportunities that the current economic situation does not offer them.”

For the record: Metro Man E. Sreedharan announced his decision to quit active politics nine months after joining the BJP. Is it a case of boarding the wrong train?