Her nomination as a party candidate is of a piece with other hardline choices that the BJP has been making in recent times, including the selection of the former leader of a vigilante group, Yogi Adityanath, as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Other parties too have made hard-to-defend choices in the past. Manmohan Singh’s extraordinary decision in 2006 to re-induct Shibu Soren as a Cabinet minister, after the latter was given bail in a murder case, stands out. The BJP’s then leader of the Opposition in Parliament, L K Advani, had said at the time that "Under the UPA, not just politics but even the Cabinet has been criminalised." Viewed in those terms, is the BJP now seeking to criminalise the Lok Sabha? The sadhvi
has been quoted as saying: “We will put an end to [terrorists and Congress
leaders] and reduce them to ashes.” Is that the kind of talk that the country wishes to hear in Parliament?
It is said that, more than failure, it is success that reveals a person. And so it would seem to be with the BJP. In Opposition, the party used to stand for law and order, but now it stands by vigilante groups and their members who attack Muslims. Its leaders used to be known once for their measured language, but they have been replaced by rabble-rousers who attract censure for divisive talk and holding out threats to voters. Its talk of “genuine” secularism, as different from what it called “minority appeasement”, stands exposed by its own actions while what one hears now is talk of a Hindu rashtra
. In Opposition, the party rightly criticised partisan capture of autonomous bodies, nomination of Congress party faithful to Constitutional posts, and misuse of the government’s investigative powers. But whatever the Congress did, the BJP now does in spades. L K Advani conceptualised Prasar Bharati as an autonomous broadcasting body, but it has become a partisan government mouthpiece. And the selective use of tax and other raids is too blatantly one-sided to be accidental.
The BJP is not alone in coarsening public discourse. Rahul Gandhi’s constant description of the prime minister as “chor
” or thief is clear use of unparliamentary language. His jibe that Narendra Modi is a “darpok
” (coward) is laughable, and hardly improves matters with its childishness. Other Opposition leaders have not distinguished themselves; Mayawati, Azam Khan
and others have all crossed the line. But it is the BJP that has set the unfortunate tone of these elections. As the new pole party in Indian politics, it should have sought to improve political conduct and discourse. Instead, it has chosen to nominate Pragya Thakur. Whatever one might think of the idea of Hindutva, the words and actions of the party that advocates it are no advertisement for it.