A spectre is haunting India, the spectre of multiple curses. It isn’t only Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s malevolent death-wish for her police prosecutor, Hemant Karkare, which is the BJP’s only expression of malignity towards its enemies, there have been countless occasions when vile abuses have been hurled by the party’s followers against its critics.

While in the 1990s, postcards and inland letters were used by the saffron warriors to vilify the BJP’s opponents, they have now graduated to using the internet to carry on the task of cursing the perceived adversaries or expressing ghoulish joy if any one of the latter are killed, like Gauri Lankesh.

The common refrain of these warriors has been to tell the designated anti-nationals to go to Pakistan for their failure to abide by the norms set by the saffronities with even Union ministers joining them to repeat the advice. But the Hinduva storm-troopers have not always been satisfied with mere castigation. They have also taken the trouble of ferreting out all the “information” that they can about their targets in order to paint them in the darkest of hues.

The latest objective of this quest is, unsurprisingly, Rahul Gandhi with questions being asked about his citizenship. Earlier, the person in their crosshairs was Sonia Gandhi with her Italian origin providing an easy opportunity to the Sangh parivar to malign her. The most notable episode in this context was Sushma Swaraj’s maudlin threat to shave her head and survive on fruits and nuts if Sonia Gandhi became the prime minister.

Unfortunately, the country was deprived of the hilarious/mawkish sight of Sushma’s hair cascading down to her feet from the barber’s knife because Sonia chose not to head the government in 2004. But the element of melodrama which characterizes the BJP’s politics was unmistakable. The same sense of the burlesque can be discerned in Sadhvi Pragya’s malign invocation.

For a party and a parivar, which believes that they are engaged in a dharma yudh (holy war)-to use the Sadhvi’s description of her electoral battle with the Congress’s Digvijay Singh- it is only natural that they should regard their political opponents as “enemies”, as a no-longer-venerated member of the BJP’s margdarshakmandali or a group showing the right path, L K Advani, advised them not to do.

Like all fundamentalists, the RSS/BJP divides the world into believers and non-believers- bhakts and kafirs or Bajrang Balis and Alis, as UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath said. But it is obviously not enough merely to brand the non-believers as anti-nationals for their hesitancy to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai at the drop of a hat. Their reputation also has to be besmirched.

Hence, the questions about Raul Vinci alias Rahul Gandhi and the earlier insinuations about his lineage, such as that his great great grandfather, Motilal Nehru, was the son of a Muslim who had changed his name from Ghyasuddin to Gangadhar to evade the British after the 1857 uprising, and also that Jawaharlal was born in a red light district of Allahabad and finally died of syphilis.

When these “revelations” first came to light, the Congress called them “sinister” and wanted to know why and how the Wikipedia pages about the Nehru-Gandhi family were “altered”. But as the latest allegations about Rahul Gandhi along with the charges that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is bipolar show, curses and canards go hand in hand.

As in the case of the Sadhvi’s imprecations against Karkare, the parivar is not interested in providing proofs but in floating rumours – no matter how outlandish – to malign its opponents and that, too, in a way which will have a touch of the occult. This stratagem with a hint of the supernatural harks back to the dark, primeval world of superstition which its proponents apparently believe will have a wide appeal, especially among the unwashed.

It does not take much perspicacity to realize that this primitiveness is as far removed from the Nehruvian vision of the imperative of cultivating a scientific temper. One can understand in this context the reason behind the intense antipathy towards the dynasty, and especially against its most prominent member whom Atal Behari Vajpayee had described as Bharat Mata’s “favourite prince”.

Unfortunately, the country has travelled a long distance from those days of civility and graciousness to a time when a seemingly hapless Election Commission has to contend almost daily with contemptuous disregard not only for the model code of conduct, but even for natural restraint and politeness.

It cannot be known whether the Sadhvi’s malediction had an effect in real life, but the pride expressed by a BJP candidate about how the present ruling dispensation has broken the morale (“manobal”) of the Muslims had been noted by former vice-president Hamid Ansari in an interview before his retirement. There is little doubt that a curse of sorts is stalking the land.

Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal.