SC verdict on Sec 377: Why is BJP on the wrong side of history?
The BJP chief appears set to back the SC verdict on section 377. Is the party turning conservative for a political reason?
If the Supreme Court’s verdict on section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) recriminalised homosexuality, it also brought out into view the real fault lines between conservative opinion and liberal opinion.
On Friday, BJP President Rajnath Singh clearly said that his party was all for the Supreme Court’s verdict which overturned the Delhi High Court judgment of 2009, which kept consensual homosexual acts outside the purview of section 377.
Rajnath told The Telegraph: “We will state (at an all-party meeting, if it is called) that we support Section 377 because we believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and cannot be supported.”
This statement, if not modified by saner counsel, puts the BJP on the wrong side of history, but, surprisingly, it puts the party on the same side as its traditional detractors – the minorities. In India, both the church and Muslim opinion appear to be formally against legalising gax sex even if they do not want it recriminalised.
In the land of Vatsyayana, Khajuraho and Konark, it can be no one’s case that age-old Hindu culture was inherently conservative. As a Hindu-oriented party, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar should, therefore, have had no problems embracing the section 377 verdict of the Delhi high court as par for the course.
Why then did the party swing to the conservative section on this issue? Why is the party, whose prime ministerial candidate openly talked about toilets before temples (“pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya”), suddenly keen to be spearheading conservative reaction?
The BJP clearly sees some kind of short-term political advantage from this posture. As a party that has been stoutly opposed by many Muslims and minority organisations, the BJP, by taking an illiberal stand on homosexuality, is trying to kill two birds with one stone: one the one hand, it panders to the conservative elements in the Sangh Parivar that are uncomfortable with any talk of sexuality; on the other, it offers the party an opportunity to reach out to the minority community saying on this we are with you.
There is no guarantee this ploy will work, and it is also unlikely that the BJP will hold on to this position indefinitely – especially if a review bench of the Supreme Court overturns the verdict of the two-judge bench.
But the BJP appears to be acting on different calculations for now.
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