The lessons from Imran Masood, Sabir Ali's fall from grace

Imran Masood has been arrested. Rahul Gandhi has cancelled his Saharanpur rally. The Congress is right to point out as spokesman Sanjay Jha did that Masood’s remarks come from the time when he was with the Samajwadi Party not his current avatar as a Congress nominee from Saharanpur.

But it’s a shaky defence.

It’s as if Jha is arguing that in the process of his induction into the Congress, Masood underwent some ritual of purification whereby his slate was wiped clean and his past could not be held against him. In fact, presumably it was his record as a Samajwadi Party leader rather than his private citizen qualifications that made the Congress put him up as its candidate in the election.

 The lessons from Imran Masood, Sabir Alis fall from grace

Masood's speech may be old but it still is dragging him down. Youtube image.

His SP baggage is very much the Congress’ baggage now. So it’s pointless for the Congress to try and duck the fallout just as the BJP could not duck the fallout from Varun Gandhi’s alleged remarks about Muslims a few years back. That case fell apart later, Varun Gandhi was acquitted but at that time the BJP was left scrambling to try and contain the damage.

Anyway given the number of turncoats in the electoral fray if everyone could wipe their political resumes clean by the act of switching parties, a lot more would be jumping ship. Now even a Modi-baiter like JD(U)’s Sabir Ali has apparently seen the light and joined the BJP.

Rajnath Singh might magnanimously say, as he did to The Times of India that “In a party, there are several people who come from other parties and accept its ideology. There should be no objection.”

But that does not Ali’s fulminations against the BJP on TV should not be forgotten. Now that induction is apparently on hold.

Candidates say many things in the heat of an election campaign, often fired up by the energy of partisan crowds. But in an age where ever mobile phone can easily double as a camcorder nothing needs to remain restricted to the heat and dust of that campaign meeting.

Does anyone really believe Imran Masood would go after Narendra Modi with an axe? Probably not. But the fact is someone trying to be in public life has no business making over-the-top statements like "If Modi tries to make Uttar Pradesh into Gujarat, then we will chop him into tiny pieces... I am not scared of getting killed or attacking someone.”

The internet is hungry for controversy and lurid statements have a life of their own on the internet. Right now an old video clip of Uma Bharati calling Modi a "Vinash Purush" rather than "Vikaas Purush" has surfaced on the internet. Bharati has since been expelled from and re-inducted into the BJP but these old clips don't go away. What those who make them do not realize is that in the end they tend to backfire.

Imran Masood is now feeling the heat. In 2011 when CPM leader and seven term MP Anil Basu made obscene remarks about Mamata Banerjee he thought he was just mocking her. But after those remarks got picked up by television cameras, the chappal was on the other foot. Basu had earlier talked about seizing Mamata by her hair and dumping her in front of her home in Kalighat during the height of her Singur dharnas.

Mamata got a fair amount of sympathy from the voters and Basu’s leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was forced to say “I have told my party leadership to censure him. What can I say to him? Whatever he has done is unforgivable.” In 2012 Basu was expelled from his party.

Whatever happens to Masood, his statement will do nothing to dent Modi who will be happy to use it to play victim. The SP, struggling with its own Muslim problem after Muzaffarnagar, must be relieved that Masood is proving to be the Congress' headache instead of adding to their woes.

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Updated Date: Mar 29, 2014 14:44:26 IST