BJP Lok Sabha member from Bhopal Pragya Thakur is at it again. Barely a month after being pulled up by party president JP Nadda for her remark that she was not elected to the Parliament to clean toilets, she has courted controversy by claiming that the Opposition is using magical spells to eliminate BJP leaders.
This time, the party has given a muted response. There is no open condemnation of her outrageous suggestion. There's no question raised on minimum decorum in public conduct that is expected of a political leader.
This raises serious doubts about the party's intent to restrain her and others making similar irresponsible comments. It also reveals that unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi's frequent admonishments translate into concrete disciplinary action, the trend would continue.
On Monday, while addressing the condolence meet of BJP veteran and former finance minister Arun Jaitley, at the state BJP office in Bhopal, Pragya said, "The Opposition is using a ‘marak shakti’ (killing power) to harm BJP leaders. The ‘evil power’ was behind the recent deaths of Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Babulal Gaur.”
While former Union ministers Jaitley and Swaraj passed away on 24 August and 6 August, respectively, Babulal Gaur, the former BJP Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, passed away on 20 August.
All these three BJP veterans were known for their camaraderie and warm acceptance across the political spectrum, irrespective of political ideologies.
Thakur's statement visibly made the gathering, which included BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha, state BJP president Rakesh Singh and other former ministers of the state, squirm in embarrassment. Many of them quietly left after the meet, in order to avoid media attention.
“It was a major embarrassment for the party. Some of our senior party leaders tried to evade questions from the media and left quietly,” one of the party workers present at the meeting said.
This was not the first time, though. Earlier too, at various occasions, Thakur's caustic and apparently irresponsible remarks had caused embarrassment for the saffron party. Here are a few:
On Hemant Karkare
"He was traitor. He was anti-religion... You won’t believe but I said you will be destroyed... After just over a month, the terrorists killed him.”
Thakur had the above remarks on Mumbai police official Hemant Karkare, who got killed in 26/11 case, while on duty.
On Babri Masjid demolition
"We will build a Ram temple (at Ayodhya) and build a grand one. We had gone to demolish the (Babri) structure. I am proud that I climbed the structure and demolished it. God gave me power and we removed a blot on the nation."
On Nathuram Godse
"Nathuram Godse was a patriot, is a patriot, and will remain a patriot."
Thakur made the above comment during a roadshow in Madhya Pradesh in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Her public statement compelled Modi to say that he would never forgive the BJP candidate from Bhopal for insulting Mahatma Gandhi by calling his assassin Godse a true patriot. Even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had distanced itself from Pragya over her remark.
On Modi's Swachh Bharat campaign
"Hum naali saaf karwane ke liye nahi bane hain. Hum aapka shauchalaya saaf karne ke liye bilkul nahi banaye gaye hain. Hum jis kaam ke liye banaye gaye hain, vo kaam hum imaandaari se karenge (I have not become an MP to clean drains. I have not at all been made to clean the toilets. I will honestly do all for which I have been made an MP for)."
A month after getting elected as MP from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat on BJP ticket, Thakur had triggered a controversy in July in Sehore district, when she told party workers that she ‘hasn’t been elected to clean gutters and toilets’. She made this comment when the BJP workers asked her questions related to civic issues like drainage system, etc. Nadda ‘pulled up’ Thakur at BJP headquarters in Delhi for the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign.
It seems Thakur, who had been an accused in a bomb blast case, has the potential to be the party's biggest embarrassment for the Modi 2.0 government — a habitual offender of sorts. Going by her statements so far — that range from obnoxious to outright insulting — Thakur seems poised to be the sore thumb for the BJP that it should do without.
There are a few other BJP leaders who have put the party in uncomfortable situations. One of them was Vijayvargiya's son and Indore MLA Akash Vijayvargiya, who had assaulted a municipal corporation officer with a cricket bat in public on 26 June.
A week after the incident, the prime minister had condemned the action at BJP's parliamentary board meeting. “Arrogance and misbehaviour won’t be tolerated irrespective of whoever’s son he may be,” Modi had said.
In another shocking incident, most recently, seven persons, including Shikhar Agarwal, a member of BJP's youth wing Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), who were accused of killing a police inspector in a cow slaughter-related violence in Bulandshahr last year, were given a hero's welcome by their supporters when they came out on bail on 24 August. They were garlanded and greeted with slogans of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
It seems a few leaders and workers of the saffron party have failed to learn any lesson from the admonishments by senior leaders, including the prime minister.
“I think she gets carried away emotionally. She may be a good religious speaker but not a politician who understands what she means. BJP shouldn’t tolerate such immature thoughts and opinions from an MP of the ruling party. It must be an embarrassment for senior party leaders,” Abhilash Khandekar, political commentator and author of Shivraj Singh and Rise of Madhya Pradesh.
He added, “She’s increasingly becoming a liability for the BJP, which is clearly dealing with such people (like Akash Vijayvargiya) with velvet gloves. Why are they (the BJP) shying away from taking stern action?”
A lot has been written about Hindutva being only one of the several reasons that led to the resounding victory for Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In fact, it is well-known that if Hindutva had been the most important election plank for the BJP, a majority of Hindu voters may not have voted for Modi.
In such a scenario, Thakur's statements come as an embarrassment as those are clearly out of sync with the party's and the government's collective image projected to the voters and the world at large.
“I was shocked when Thakur won by such a huge margin in the Lok Sabha election. To me, it was a huge national shame,” said Rakesh Dixit, a senior journalist and political commentator based in Bhopal.
"Bhopal is known as a city of social and cultural harmony. This constituency never witnessed such a candidate like Pragya. No country in the world has ever elected a person who has been accused of terrorism to its Parliament. That’s why I filed a petition challenging her election. Her statements one after another show how low one can stoop and about her irresponsible public behaviour," says Dixit, who recently filed a petition in the Madhya Pradesh High Court challenging her election from the Bhopal Parliamentary seat.
“I don’t know when the petition will be taken up, if at all. Its fate is also uncertain. But the satisfaction of having stood up against Pragya Singh will remain with me forever,” Dixit wrote in an article.
Updated Date: Aug 27, 2019 22:54:50 IST