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Tharoor rejects Dhanapala's contention on race for UN post

By Dharam Shourie in New York
January 09, 2007 12:14 IST
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Strongly rejecting the contention of Jayantha Dhanapala that his entry into the race for the post of UN Secretary-General had "spoiled" the Sri Lankan's chances, Indian diplomat Shashi Tharoor said he would not have entered into the fray if he thought the island country's nominee had the "slightest chance of prevailing".

Dhanapala's argument that South Asia should have united behind one candidate is "fine" but it should be a candidate who has good chance of attracting widespread support in the Security Council, Tharoor said.

"The actual voting results have borne out which candidate consistently enjoyed support," Tharoor, who is currently UN Under-Secretary-General for Public Affairs, said referring to the fact that in all straw polls, he was in the second place after Ban Ki-moon, who was finally elected, and Dharnapala was generally at the bottom.

Tharoor always got ten or more of the 15 votes and the reason for his withdrawal was that one permanent member had voted against him. Dhanapala told Lanka Monthly Digest in an interview, "The fact that they (Indians) waited until quite late in the process to announce Tharoor's candidature was unfortunate and it was certainly seen as spoiler to my own candidature."

Asked to comment on the statements of Dhanapala, Tharoor told PTI by e-mail that given the nature of elections process in the Council, no candidate can "spoil" another candidate's chances since the Council members were free to vote for as many candidates they wished.

As such, they could have voted for both, Tharoor said, "So, there is no question of my candidacy having any bearing on the level of support for Dhanapala." Tharoor was referring to the voting procedure followed by the Council while electing the Secretary-General.

The Council members vote for each candidate separately and voting continues till only one candidate gets 9 or more votes which are the minimum for election. If two or more candidates get nine or more votes, it is considered a tie and another round of polling is held. Under this procedure, both Tharoor and Dhanapala could have got ten or more votes each.

Pointing out that at no stage did he say a negative word about Dhanapala, Tharoor said on contrary, "I had praised him in my interviews. Indeed, I took care to send him a message early in the campaign to say my candidacy was not directed against him."

"I believe the time has come to put this race behind us and look to the future. I bear Dhanapala nothing but goodwill and I wish him well in whatever he undertakes," he added. While saying that Tharoor's candidacy had acted a "spoiler" to his chances, Dhanapala had also admitted that Western countries did not vote for him because of his posture on nuclear disarmament.

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Dharam Shourie in New York