Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy is not particularly known for moderation. His attacks against political opponents (and sometimes party colleagues) have been legion and too often intemperate in the extreme. But Swamy really plumbed the depths with his purely ad hominem attack on Priyaka Gandhi Vadra, recently-appointed Congress general secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh, on Saturday.
S Swamy on #PriyankaGandhiVadra : Usko 1 bimari hai jo sarvjanik jivan mein anukool aur upyukt nahi hai, usko bipolarity kehte hain yaani uski hinsawadi charitra dikhai padti hai, logon ko peet'ti hai. Public ko pata hona chaiye ki kab santulan kho baithegi, kisi ko pata nahi. pic.twitter.com/psVoVcbnvx
— ANI (@ANI) January 27, 2019
Swamy accused Priyanka of suffering from bipolar disorder and said she physically abused people. "The name of that disease is bipolarity, which reflects her violent character and overall image," he claimed, in a statement to ANI. Two things stand out in Swamy's statement, apart from the extreme bad taste, of course.
First, Swamy adduced no evidence for his claims. Priyanka has been in public life for some time now. The public has till now never heard of her randomly beating up people. If the claim is true, surely such acts would have been the subject of media reports. As for the comments on bipolar disorder, the question surely is: How on earth does Swamy know?
Second, bipolar disorder is a mental health problem — an ailment — that can be treated and kept under control. In that sense, it is like any other ailment. Swamy, who flaunts an Ivy League education, should have known better than to attack anyone with the accusation of suffering from a health condition. That is anyone and any health condition. To make fictitious accusations against a political opponent is, actually, beyond bad taste.
On the basis of his comments, Swamy has concluded that Priyanka's "ailment does not make her fit to lead a public life. The public should know when she is likely to lose mental balance". Given that she has never shown signs of losing her mental balance despite having spent considerable amount of time under the glare of public and media scrutiny, we can reach quite another conclusion.
Without making any imputations, solely on the basis of his comments on Priyanka, we can conclude that it is the BJP MP whose fitness and aptitude for public life must be questioned.
Swamy has for long acquired the reputation of a loose cannon, with a penchant for personal attacks on public figures, as mentioned, both opponents and allies. In that limited sense, despite the wanton crudity of his attack, there could be reason not to be surprised by his latest effort. What is surprising is the silence surrounding the attack and the fact that no senior leader of the BJP has protested.
We all know that political rhetoric has been badly debased in India. Apart from mutual attacks on each other that hardly meet any kind of standard of public discourse, senior leaders across the board have been known to make disparaging remarks about the minorities, Dalits and women, for instance. But surely senior and responsible leaders must react, as Bahujan Samaj Party boss Mayawati recently did when a party member made distasteful comments about Congress president Rahul Gandhi, despite the fact that she does not appear to be a big fan of the Congress.
In Swamy's case not a single statement seems to have been issued. There has been enough time to do so, given that the comments were made on Saturday. There does seem to have been even the pro forma comment that the BJP distances itself from the remarks, which are Swamy's alone. Of course, Swamy has not been pulled up by a senior leader, say, party president Amit Shah, assuming, of course, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is much too busy to respond to scurrilous comments made by a senior party colleague.
What does this silence signify? To our mind, it could mean one of three things. Or all of them, possibly. First, it could mean that so many BJP leaders issue so many statements against political opponents and whole sections of society, that are often in questionable taste, that the top brass of the party has become inured to them and could not be bothered to issue clarifications or initiate action against the offenders. That seems to be a questionable conclusion: The BJP brass has never seemed to lack energy.
Second, it could signify assent through silence. In other words, it could mean that the party is backing Swamy and is standing by his accusations. In that case, the BJP should issue something in the nature of a statement to this effect. That, too, seems unlikely. The third possibility is that the party is content to allow Swamy to get away with these comments because he has that kind of reputation anyway. In other words, it is not bothered about the truth of the accusation but is perfectly happy to let him roil the waters hoping some electoral gain can be harvested.
The plain truth, however, is that the BJP leadership would make itself look good if it acted against Swamy.
Updated Date: Jan 28, 2019 15:42:09 IST