In July this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi actually sought to change the BJP’s perception vis-à-vis Muslims. He asked BJP workers to take out ‘Sneh Yatras’ or goodwill processions to reach out to Pasmanda Muslims. This referred to the most marginalised, oppressed and economically backward members of the community who are distinct from ‘upper-caste’ Ashraf Muslims. While this Muslim outreach exercise was beginning to gain shape, like a bolt from the blue South Delhi Lok Sabha MP Ramesh Bidhuri on the floor of Parliament called a fellow MP Danish Ali “pimp”, terrorist, militant and also uttered pejorative words used specifically against Muslims. What made matters more reprehensible was the presence of two former Union ministers Ravishankar Prasad and Dr Harshavardhan who sat there laughing throughout Bidhuri’s tirade. Bidhuri has not only punctured the Muslim outreach of the BJP, but has dragged the recent successes from the Women’s Reservation Bill to Chandrayaan-3 into a dark abyss of hateful oblivion. Bidhuri has resurrected some stark questions not only before the nation but his party as well which will have to decide sooner or later as to what action they will take against him. But this would be a double-edged sword, as a strict penalty against him could earn plaudits from certain quarters but would also risk alienating their core vote. With elections round the corner, Bidhuri's challenge is almost like a cross to bear for the BJP.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has expunged Bidhuri's remarks but he failed to preserve the sanctity of Parliament which is the nation's highest forum of debate. Expunction makes little sense in times when the message has already been sent out to millions through visual and print media. Last year the Lok Sabha Secretariat had come up with a booklet of unparliamentary words which included words like “ashamed, abused, betrayed, corrupt, drama, hypocrisy and incompetent”. Certainly Om Birla needs to now do some serious soul searching and perhaps also watch Bidhuri's clip again and again. Bidhuri's ugly tirade has insulted not only Danish Ali but Parliament as an institution. Shouldn't Om Birla take the initiative to stem the culture of impunity within the House when it comes to minority-baiting? This could have been the best beginning to a new Parliament — but alas, it's the other way round. BJP's disciplinary committee has sent a show cause notice to Bidhuri where he has to reply within ten days as to why action should not be taken against him, and this itself is evidence of how the party is procrastinating over this issue. The worst fear with this episode could be the backlash from a Muslim nation or heavily adverse international media coverage, which could again damage Modi's image.
Bidhuri has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh since Emergency days. He belongs to a prominent family which laid the foundations of the RSS in South Delhi. He is a strongman who visits the RSS shakhas regularly and with this colossal loyalty to the ideological fountain, whether the BJP will go tough on him is anybody's guess. For the RSS environment which thrives and sustains itself on Muslim-bashing, Bidhuri is a mascot of the hate politics espoused by the Nagpur headquarters; he has climbed up the ladder of prominence and is now in the league of Yogi Aditynanth, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur etc. There were reports recently that some ministers had thrown their weight around to push for a Union cabinet berth for Bidhuri; this agenda could be derailed for some time but the Sangh will certainly ensure that Bidhuri doesn't get expelled or face the harshest punishment. While the RSS has reason to smile — though not openly — at how Bidhuri hurled invectives on the floor of the Lok Sabha against a Muslim MP, for Prime Minister Modi this could be his biggest litmus test and a predicament too. The five-day special session of Parliament has been unprecedented for historic and the worst reasons. Historic because of the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill, and Bidhuri opened a horrific chapter in the history of Parliament which will be remembered for generations.
In the vigorous projection of India as the “mother of democracy” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ramesh Bidhuri is a depressing outlier extremely difficult to defend. Bidhuri has forced the country's intelligentsia to ponder over the unthinkable which could manifest in the future — but as a tailpiece, where is Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati? Why doesn't she appear incensed? There was just one tweet in which she wrote, “Although the Speaker has removed from the record the objectionable remarks made by the BJP MP from Delhi against BSP MP Shri Danish Ali in the House and has also warned him and the senior minister has apologised in the House, but it is sad that the party has not yet taken appropriate action against him.” This subdued reaction by Mayawati is a mirror to the polity in future, scary and disastrous both.
Neelu Vyas is a senior television anchor and consulting editor with Satya Hindi. Twitter: @neeluopines