Even as the Maharashtra government defended the arrest of Republic TV Managing Director and Chief Editor Arnab Goswami in Mumbai on Wednesday, several quarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vociferously protested against it.
From the din of voices, a notable objection came from Meenakshi Lekhi, the national spokesperson of the BJP, who is also a Supreme Court lawyer and a Member of Parliament from New Delhi.
Lekhi took to her official handle on Twitter to express her disapproval against what she called “signs of fascism” of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government in Maharashtra. Arresting Arnab Goswami, she said, is a means of curbing the “right to freedom of expression” and “repression of mass media”.
In a fit of rage (judging by the ‘angry’ emoji at the end of her tweet), Lekhi asked, “But why are champions of human rights quite [sic.] now”?
In one way, such a reaction from the Parliamentarian doesn’t seem too out-of-the-way, especially since Lekhi has ostensibly always been at the forefront of socio-political matters in journals, periodicals, newspapers, and televised debates. With her equal command over English and Hindi (we sure aren’t judging her for spelling errors on Twitter), she has been praised as a good debater on matters of national importance and is expected to raise an objection to state repression of media.
Except, that objection might come across as just a bit of retrospective imposture considering the ‘state’ in question is governed by Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray, the very person that the BJP had advocated for in the 2019 Maharashtra assembly polls.
For dispassionate watchers of electoral politics not too invested in either party, the occasion serves as hilarious deceit. The BJP campaigned for the Shiv Sena in 2019, broke off ties amid a highly-dramatised ‘crisis’ in the state, and a year later in 2020, it’s raising objections against the alleged “fascism” of their former ally.
If the platter hadn’t been served yet, Lekhi was also seen asking people who have voted “such powers” to rethink.
Readers must once again be mindful of the fact that it was the BJP, which had advocated for “such powers” in the state assembly polls. Campaigning for a party, breaking off ties due to egoistic power tussles, and then blaming voters for electing the party to power seems a tad bit sanctimonious, if not downright fatuous.
The final bout of embarrassment was, however, delivered by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Like enlightened padawans standing up to their Jedi mentors, the ABVP condemned the BJP for ‘blaming’ the voters.
"We voted Shiv Sena because BJP and Shiv Sena were in alliance. Shiv Sena ditched you is not our problem. Don’t blame the voters now!" wrote Varada Marathe, national social media convener for the ABVP, in response to Lekhi's tweet.
It goes without saying that the BJP has found itself in an awkward position here.
After a prolonged power struggle over government formation in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena had claimed that promises were not kept by their alliance partner BJP. The party later formally broke ties with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and formed the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government in the state after joining hands with Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).