Congress MP Shashi Tharoor broke dangerous ground on Wednesday by saying India will become a Hindu Pakistan if Bharatiya Janata Party wins the 2019 general elections. The backlash soon followed. The troll army is up in arms and he's being called anti-national. In its typical response, BJP has called on Congress President Rahul Gandhi to apologise!

Should Rahul Gandhi apologise? Or should he go ahead and admonish Tharoor? Will Congress disown Tharoor and dissociate itself from his comments, like it did when Mani Shankar Aiyar made allegedly casteist remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

Of course Tharoor has taken some risk in pushing himself that far. After all, in his party he is swimming with old, wily sharks that will not hesitate to eat him up if he slips up. Congress bigwigs haven't yet responded to Tharoor's statement. It's interesting to see how the ever-so-fair Rahul Gandhi himself will react to this daring statement. Will the good boy alienate himself from this? Rahul is, after all, temperamentally conditioned to avoid the murky waters of (Indian) politics.

Whether Congress chooses to throw Tharoor under the truck or not, it's clear that the former union minister has made a calculated statement. And his timing is sweet as always.

It's not a secret that the BJP had a surprisingly long 'honeymoon phase' with Tharoor. The party clearly harboured hopes that Tharoor would join its fold before the next Lok Sabha elections. Tharoor himself encouraged that line of thought within the BJP with his surprisingly generous assessment of Prime Minister Modi and his rule. Many in the Congress thought Tharoor was a fair weather party man who would migrate to BJP sooner or later.

If they (BJP) win a repeat in the Lok Sabha our democratic constitution as we understand it will not survive as they will have all the elements they need to tear apart the constitution of India and write a new one.

"That new one will be the one which will enshrine principles of Hindu Rashtra, that'll remove equality for minorities, that'll create a Hindu Pakistan and that isn't what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad and great heroes of freedom struggle fought for.

For BJP, Tharoor had an important place in its grand scheme of things in Kerala. If he were to join the party, BJP's efforts to win its first ever Lok Sabha seat in Kerala would have got a tremendous fillip. The Tharoor brand of politics in the last four years was marked by a certain sense of ambivalence. It was a stance only someone like Tharoor could cultivate and practise with that level of ease and finesse.

What perhaps prompted him to do so? Did he really want to ditch Congress before 2019? Or was he simply working up his BJP suitors in such a way that he's freed from the dragnet of the vexing case relating to the mysterious death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar? One can only make an informed guess.

However, the Tharoor-BJP fling had to end somewhere. And it did, when the prosecutors moved finally to slap charges on him in the Sunanda Pushkar death case. Tharoor was forced to move the Delhi courts for anticipatory bail, which he was granted last week. Did BJP finally stop chasing Tharoor as it was clear that the Congress leader wasn't going to join their ranks?

Perhaps yes. In any case, Tharoor isn't expecting favours any more. The road ahead for him now is clear, and it's a rugged one indeed. What's right for him right now is to take the BJP head on. In a way no other Congress leader dares to do. The dice is thrown and the stakes are clear. There is a broad opposition alliance taking shape to face-off against the BJP in 2019. The alliance is in its birth pangs, and there's a mighty chance that it may become a still-born. The broad alliance has lacked magnetic leadership, a rallying point and even a general consensus on how to take the BJP head on. The prospective voters for the grand alliance are waiting for leaders to emerge from the clutter. Shashi Tharoor has clearly done his bit by raising his hands.

Back home in his Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, he isn't going to have an easy fight in the next elections. In 2014, fighting against BJP veteran O Rajagopal, he scraped through with a majority of just above 10,000 votes. The only way for him to secure a win there in 2019 is by burnishing his anti-BJP, anti-Hindutva credentials.

It's good to see Tharoor rising up to play the hard ball.

Shashi Tharoor
Shashi TharoorShashi Tharoor