New Delhi: Caught on the wrong foot over a Twitter post on Jawaharlal Nehru three days ago, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Thursday attempted to set the record straight by sharing footage showing the grand welcome accorded to India's first prime minister during his US visits.
It may have just been a "kerfuffle", as the wordsmith politician put it, but one that clearly needed some recall from history.
Hoping to silence trolls, Tharoor shared YouTube video links of footage showing Nehru meeting various US presidents.
One link showed him being received at the airport in 1949 by then president Harry S Truman.
Another link showed then vice president Richard Nixon welcoming him and his daughter Indira Gandhi at the airport in 1956. The footage goes on to show Nehru being warmly received at the White House by then president Dwight D Eisenhower.
In a third video clip from 1961, Nehru is seen meeting John F Kennedy, addressing Indian diaspora in Washington and meeting journalists.
It all started when Tharoor tweeted an image of Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi in the midst of a tumultuous public welcome in some foreign land. “Nehru & Indira Gandhi in the US in 1954. Look at the hugely enthusiastic spontaneous turnout of the American public, without any special PR campaign, NRI crowd management or hyped-up media publicity,” Tharoor tweeted. Clearly a dig at the highly publicised 'Howdy Modi' event held in Houston, Texas.
Twitterati went on a rampage. It was not 'India Gandhi' that had them all worked up, though they might have sneered at the spelling of a man who had taken up so much pride in the impeccable use of English. They lost no time to fact-check the photography and gleefully announce that it was taken not in the US but in the USSR. Not just the place, Tharoor even got the year wrong. The fact-checkers said it was Moscow, 1956.
Tharoor had claimed it was the US, 1954. A bumper goof-up.
There was more in store for Tharoor. The Congress MP was also told that there were no spontaneous receptions in the erstwhile USSR. Only state-sponsored ones. “The state-sponsored welcome was given because Congress had decided to go into the Socialist fold in its AICC session at Avadi," a fact-checker named Sanjay Dixit tweeted.
Confronted with such emphatic blunder-hunters, Shashi Tharoor said something that felt like he was eating his own words but was not. “I am told this picture (forwarded to me) probably is from a visit to the USSR and not the US. Even if so, it still doesn't alter the message: the fact is that former PMs also enjoyed popularity abroad. When @narendramodi is honoured, @PMOIndia is honoured; respect is for India.,” he tweeted.
One, he made it clear that it was not he who dug up the picture, and therefore absolved him of all blame. Forwarded to me, he said in brackets. Two, he hinted that he still didn't fully believe that the event was in the USSR. “I am told this picture probably is from a visit to the USSR and not the US,” he said. (The emphasis is the writer's)
"After the Twitter kerfuffle about a mislabelled photograph, here's an authenticated pair of pix from our PM's visit to the US in 1949: a large crowd of people gathers at the University of Wisconsin to listen to a speech by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in November 1949," Tharoor said.
(With inputs from PTI)