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Indian flag at Capitol Hill: Varun Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor face-off on Twitter ends with an unexpected twist

Thousands of supporters lay siege on Capitol Hill, where certification of Joe Biden’s victory was underway inside the Congress, US Parliament. (Pic:Twitter)

An Indian flag fluttering in the middle of the crowd assembled at America’s Capitol Hill triggered a fiery exchange back home between two senior MPs, Shahi Tharoor and Varun Gandhi. On Thursday, BJP’s Varun Gandhi shared a video in which an Indian flag can be seen fluttering along with a number of US flags and posters hailing Trump. This happened when thousands of supporters lay siege on Capitol Hill, where certification of Joe Biden’s victory was underway inside the Congress, US Parliament.

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Upon spotting the flag among Donald Trump supporters whose actions put America to shame, Varun Gandhi said: “Why is there an Indian flag there??? This is one fight we definitely don’t need to participate in.”

To this, Shashi Tharoor wrote: “Unfortunately, there are some Indians with the same mentality as that Trumpist mob, who enjoy using the flag as a weapon rather than a badge of pride, & denounce all who disagree with them as anti-nationals & traitors. That flag there is a warning to all of us.”

For many, it was a direct reference to the ruling BJP, whose supporters are often equated with that of Trump’s in America. The parties on the Left and Centre Left in India hold different positions on use of ‘nationalism and patriotism’, they believe that these terms are used by political parties to further divide the society which is detrimental to democracy.

Tharoor tried to drive that point home but it backfired badly. Hitting back at Tharoor, Gandhi said that these days, it had become too easy to deride Indians for using flag to showcase their pride in the country. “At the same time, it’s also too easy to use the flag for nefarious purposes…Unfortunately, most liberals have flagrantly ignored warnings of its misuse in anti-national protests (e.g. in JNU) in India as well. It is a symbol of pride for us, and we venerate it without due regard to any “mentality”,” he said.

But this wasn’t the end. The twist happened after it was discovered that the man who was holding the Indian flag there at Capitol Hill was someone apparently close to Tharoor. The man, identified as Vincent Xavier, had had lunch with Tharoor at Otello Restaurant in Washignton DC in 2015. A tweet of him in 2015, which has now gone viral on social media, says, “Invited Shashi Tharoor for the FOMAA Kerala Convention on August at Trivandrum and he has graciously accepted the invitation”.

Sharing that 2015 tweet and a picture of Xavier standing at Capitol with Indian flag, Varun Gandhi said: “Dear Shashi Tharoor, now that we know that this lunatic was such a dear friend of yours, one can only hope that you and your colleagues were not the silent Raised back of hand behind this mayhem.”

On Friday, Xavier countered Tharoor suggesting that not only Indian but people from Vietnam, Korea, Iran and several other countries were present their at Capitol with their countries’ flags. “American patriots – Vietnamese, Indian, Korean & Iranian origins, and from so many other nations and races, who believe massive voter fraud has happened joined rally yesterday in solidarity with Trump. Peaceful protestors who were exercising our rights!,” he said in a tweet.

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