Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday said it irritates him a lot when it is reported that he has praised the prime minister whereas he only suggested that the party should figure out why people voted for Narendra Modi again in 2019.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP has been facing criticism within his party with the Kerala Congress asking him to clarify his remarks in support of party colleague Jairam Ramesh who asked the Congress to stop demonising Modi.
"Give me an example, which statements I have supported. The problem is media reports are completely unfounded. Frankly, it irritates me greatly whenever media talks about 'Tharoor's praise for Modi'," he told reporters on the sidelines of an event organised by NSUI at Delhi University.
A few days ago Tharoor had remarked, "As you know, I have argued for six years now that Narendra Modi should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, which would add credibility to our criticisms whenever he errs. I welcome others in opposition coming around to a view for which I was excoriated at the time."
At the university event, Tharoor reiterated his challenge to his critics to give example of his praise of Modi.
"What I have said is that our principle should be that we should understand why people voted for Mr Modi. We as an opposition party got 19 per cent votes in 2014 and 19 per cent in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. BJP under Mr Modi got 31 per cent in 2014 and 37 per cent in 2019. Many of these people who used to vote for us in the past went to the BJP," he said.
The Congress needs to win back these people who left it to vote for the BJP in 2019, he said.
"See, we do not know why they left us and how to win them back. So, I said let us try and figure it out, I am not praising Mr Modi, I am saying let us understand why he attracted these votes," Tharoor argued.
Citing Modi government's schemes for construction of toilets and Ujjwala Yojna for cooking gas connections to poor households in the country, which possibly contributed to BJP's victory, he said the Congress needs to point out "mistakes and failings" in these schemes.
"If it's toilets, then let us understand that 65 per cent of these toilets do not have running water, if it is gas cylinders let us acknowledge that it was good thing to do but 92 per cent of the beneficiaries have not been able to afford refills," he said.
According to Tharoor, Swachh Bharat was a good idea but it "unfortunately" was reduced to "photo-ops".
"Bharat Swachh nahin hai abhi tak, sirf bolne se nahin hota (India is not clean so far, only talking won't do (it)," he said.