Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti's hate speech: Modi's 'silence' strategy is not enough

The emergence of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti's communal statement in Delhi hardly comes as a surprise given the upcoming elections in Delhi, but what was equally unsurprising was the continuing silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah on the matter.

As we've noted earlier, the sort of invective that seeks to divide people before elections seems to be a strategy that BJP leaders indulge in with impunity. Unable to couch invective with the same finesse as their Prime Minister who has been able to take on opponents without attracting the same level of condemnation or anger, the sadhvi is just one of many leaders in the party who've been unable to hold their tongue when it comes to offending communal sensibilities.

In the run up to the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, there was the case of BJP leader Giriraj Singh from Bihar. Not one to take any condemnation of the party's prime ministerial candidate lying down, Singh had said that those opposing Modi could go to Pakistan and had no place in India.

Modi's response? A couple of tweets directed at Singh (and VHP chief Praveen Togadia) chiding him for making a statement that deviated from the party's campaign from the issues of development and good governance, and disapproving of 'such irresponsible statements'.

 Sadhvi Niranjan Jyotis hate speech: Modis silence strategy is not enough

Image from IBN

In a interview with Times Now's Arnab Goswami, Modi was asked if he could have been tougher with people like Singh.

"If I hadn't done something, if our internal system hadn't done something, then wouldn't it have continued? Hasn't it ended? This means I have taken some tough stand on the issue. I don't have to go tell the media about the actions I have taken," he said at the time.

"I do these things myself," Modi said.

However, Singh himself wasn't exactly silenced by his leader's chiding, questioning just a month later why terrorists always belonged to a particular committee.  And it didn't affect his chances of becoming a minister in the Modi government.

While Singh escaped with a rap on the knuckles others like Yogi Adityanath or BJP state chief Laxmikant Bajpai haven't even faced that much for their statements against the Muslim community prior to the bypolls in Uttar Pradesh.

The case of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti is no different. Her statements about 'Ramzaade' and 'Haramzaade' come as no surprise given that elections loom in Delhi but the initial response of the party was to say it may have been a slip of the tongue.

"What she said maybe slip of tongue, her intention was not what we are presenting," BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra initially explained away the statements while speaking to ANI.

The minister of state turned up later in Parliament to apologise and seemed to have been hung to dry by the party, addressing a press conference where she appeared equally contrite about her statement, saying that had "already apologised for her remarks in Parliament and was not going to say anything else on the matter".

The Prime Minister in turn has reportedly laid down the law saying that his oratorically-challenged MPs from Parliament should just not "address the nation out of turn", but given that almost all ministers have already been told not to shoot their mouths off, it's merely a reiteration of a standing instruction.

The Prime Minister and party chief Amit Shah can claim that they have operated behind the scenes to ensure that the errant minister was taken to task but the absence of a public condemnation only hints at it being merely a temporary punishment for her.

The absence of any public statement says that the party is fine with leaders being allowed to make such statements as long as it reaps the electoral gains they're supposed to. While the party can easily indulge in a nudge-and-wink acknowledgement of such statements, the electoral disaster that Yogi Adityanath led the BJP to in the Uttar Pradesh bypolls shows that it always doesn't work.

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Updated Date: Dec 02, 2014 20:07:21 IST