BJP needs to look hard in the mirror

SS DhawanUpdated: Thursday, May 30, 2019, 03:53 AM IST
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This is the folly of picking persons with poor administrative skills and parachuting them into the party, and then allowing them to masquerade as a chief minister. How the dream of fraternity with a spurious god man can turn into a nightmare of servility is a lesson one needs to learn from the Haryana government which had earlier fanned the Jat agitation in a similar fashion.

Such is its veneration of a spurious baba that the M L Khattar  government kept an inevitable riot situation neatly gift wrapped in Panchkula for three days — to be unravelled on the day of the verdict — smug in the belief that the ‘almighty’ State could make a forceful intervention at a time of its choosing. Dogged by a bad press in the recent days — an embarrassing stalking incident in Chandigarh, a scuffle involving a local BJP overlord and an ambulance, the ham handed handling of the Jat stir, etc — the Khattar government was perhaps trying to be too clever by half in its rather foolish attempt to redeem the party.

But it clearly overplayed its hand — which was more than apparent with the authorities in no tearing hurry to check the streaming procession  into the city, but in a bigger rush to accommodate the Dera crowd. However, the best laid plans can go awry and the end result was not as scripted: the state government landed at the doorstep of the mortuary keeping a count of the corpses of hapless Dera followers who had turned marauders, possibly provoked by a media that was baying for the arrest of their rapist baba.

Even a hare-brained swamy would have known instinctively what was coming Ram Rahim’s way — a conviction, which would be followed by a backlash. With a salivating media on the prowl, the state government allowed the kind of police build up in the run up to the verdict that we did not even witness when Kasab was executed or when Nirbhaya’s killers were hanged: choppers keeping surveillance, the city of Panchkula swarming with gun totting policemen, army platoons on the standby. At the same time, the cavalier state government allowed the followers of the comical rock star to sneak into the city, with the men in khaki burying their heads in sand — either in obeisance or in compliance; further, they were chivalrously chaperoned into the open spaces of Panchkula and virtually requested to wait for all hell to break loose after the conviction.

This was nothing short of political collusion in a brazen attempt by Ram Rahim to intimidate the judiciary. A dead give away was the splendour with which his cavalcade streamed into Panchkuka from Sirsa — a 2-hour journey by road — with the baba merrily having breakfast and even relieving himself en route; the state government, meanwhile, conveniently covered itself with the fig leaf of a ‘clerical mistake’ that prevented it from invoking but not enforcing Section 144 with full force — the absurd ban was reportedly clamped only on firearms, not on congregations.

But then absurdity is the defining feature of this administration — a brilliant example of which was the unsavoury sight of Haryana policemen caught on camera retreating, even as Ram Rahim supporters advanced menacingly.

Advisories from Punjab and Haryana on incendiary and highly combustible material like petrol and diesel being stored on rooftops were simply disregarded; nor were there any meaningful preventive arrests. The State merely stood on the sidelines and religiously video graphed the ‘Tamasha’, as if to fill the scrapbook of a government that cannot govern. Haryana’s Advocate General, meanwhile, had the cheek to inform the court that the state government had two handy plans to address both eventualities — the conviction of the dera head and his acquittal.

So, a ‘king of bling’ and his captive cluster of neurotic followers is all that it takes to turn a ‘party with a difference’ into a lump of clay — that can be merrily stomped upon by its electoral patrons and benefactors? Sure, the BJP had benefited from a last minute surge in 2014 when Dera Sauda with its offering of Dalit voters had jumped onto the BJP bandwagon. But how many rapes will it take the BJP to overcome its deep sense of gratitude and indebtedness to someone who is not even fit to be a comic underling of Johny Lever?

And, mind you, this is the same party that has, over the years, put us to sleep with its mindless drone about minority appeasement; that  was crying itself hoarse, until the other day, about Muslim women’s empowerment, virtually taking credit for a court decision liberating them from the obnoxious triple talaq practice!

But, curiously, it had no lurid tales to tell about the two sadhvis who were raped by their repository of trust, whom they reverentially addressed as ‘pita ji!’ The BJP spokespersons were not part of any such brouhaha in the TV studios; rather they scampered for cover when provoked by an anchorperson into calling Ram Rahim a rapist! Apparently, for the moment, only Muslim women — abused and abandoned — are within the pale of the party’s ‘Aurat bachao’ andolan. Because they help wean away a vote from each Muslim household?

How did BJP politics mutate into such rampant and unabashed tribalism? Perhaps, it is a sheer waste of time trying to decode its conduct — One can make rational excuses for politicians of all hues going down on their  knees and grovelling for votes, but not for turning into a doormat for a grubby rape convict.

The BJP leadership needs to look hard in the mirror: the party is beginning to be perceived as one without scruples, and it is slipping by the minute deeper into the rabbit hole; if this mindlessness over hooliganism persists — come 2022 — it would have established itself as a retrograde rag-tag party that is a draw only for the lumpen; and which can no longer claim proprietary rights to its traditional urban middle class constituency.

Not that the empowered rural voter and the aspiring classes cannot see the folly of endorsing a party that is determined to ferry them into the medieval times with its fantastic tales about mythical inventions.

Voters, Mr Prime Minister, care more about actual societal progress than the fortunes of a particular political party. Ironically, the state of Haryana is under ML Khattar’s thumb rule and the BJP has a non-Jat social coalition well entrenched until the next election. Where then was the need to fall heads over heels for a rape convict?

The author is a former editor of The Free Press Journal

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