Fact check: Did Shashi Tharoor compare Narendra Modi to a scorpion on a Shivling?

While speaking about his latest book, “The Paradoxical Prime Minister: Narendra Modi and his India”, at the Bangalore Lit Fest on October 28, the Congress referred to a quote of an unnamed RSS functionary about Mr. Modi in a nearly six-year-old magazine article.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has sent a legal notice to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for “false and defamatory statements made against (Mr. Tharoor) on October 28, 2018”.

The legal notice is in response to Mr. Prasad’s comment on an alleged remark by Mr. Tharoor against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On October 28, social media was abuzz with the allegation that Mr. Tharoor compared Mr. Modi to a scorpion sitting on a Shivling.

According to fake news busting site Alt News, a screenshot — complete with an AajTak logo — even attributed this remark to Mr. Tharoor: “To unseat Narendra Modi, I would even beat a shivling with chappal.”

A screenshot from Facebook page “I Support Narendra Bhai Modi Bjp”. A post in the page attributed a fake remark to Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

A screenshot from Facebook page “I Support Narendra Bhai Modi Bjp”. A post in the page attributed a fake remark to Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

What did Tharoor actually say?

While speaking about his latest book, The Paradoxical Prime Minister: Narendra Modi and his India, at the Bangalore Lit Fest on October 28, Mr. Tharoor referred to the quote of an unnamed RSS functionary about Mr. Modi in a nearly six-year-old magazine article.

“This personality cult has not sat very well with many in the RSS establishment. There is an extraordinarily striking metaphor expressed by an unnamed RSS source in which they express their frustration with their inability to curb Mr. Modi,” Mr. Tharoor had said. “The man [unnamed RSS source] says Mr. Modi is like a scorpion sitting on a Shivling. You cannot remove him with your hand and you cannot hit with a chappal either. And If you think about it, that’s a very very profound understanding of the relationship. Because if you try to remove a scorpion with your hand, you will get stung yourself badly. If you hit the Shivling with chappal, then you undermine all the sacred tenets of the faith that you hold [on Shivling] on which scorpion is sitting.”

Where was the quote from?

The quote of the unnamed RSS person is part of a profile of Mr. Modi in the Caravan magazine. In an article titled “The Emperor Uncrowned” published in the magazine’s edition dated March 1, 2012, the author Vinod K. Jose quotes an unnamed RSS leader: “One RSS leader described his own feelings in a bitter sigh: ‘Shivling mein bichhu baitha hai. Na usko haath se utaar sakte ho, na usko joota maar sakte ho [A scorpion is sitting on Shivling. It can neither be removed by hand nor slapped with a shoe]’.”

Mr. Tharoor said that could well be a very interesting clue to the rather complex dynamics that existed between the Hindutva movement and Moditva expression on it.

What did Mr. Prasad say?

While Mr. Tharoor was being targeted on some social media handles, the most high-profile attack came from the Union Law Minister. Accusing Mr. Tharoor of disrespecting Lord Shiva and terming him an “accused in a murder case”, Mr. Prasad sought “a reply from Rahul Gandhi who claims himself to be a Bhakt of Lord Shiva on this horrific denunciation of Hindu gods by a Congress MP.”

In a tweet accompanied with a video, Mr. Prasad demanded that “Rahul Gandhi must apologise to all Hindus.”

Responding to Mr. Prasad, Mr. Jose tweeted: “It’s funny RSPrasad would attack @ShashiTharoor for a scorpion quote I received from an RSS leader 7 yrs ago (in 2011 Nov) & published in ‘12 March issue of @thecaravanindia. Modi profile was then discussed in national TV; then & now don’t wan’t to know who the RSS leader was?”

What is Tharoor’s notice about?

In his notice to Mr. Prasad, Mr. Tharoor sought to clarify that he was not an accused in a case of murder and went on to explain the background of the remark he made in Bengaluru on October 28. Mr. Tharoor further sought an unconditional and written apology from Mr. Prasad and the removal of the latter’s tweet.

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