- Thakur has put all of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s dog whistle speeches in the shade by saying a senior police official was killed because she “cursed him”
- The only reason that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have ratcheted up the communalism is because they are desperate to win the 2019 elections
Sadhvi Pragya Thakur Singh, 48, a terror accused, is the ruling party BJP’s candidate for Bhopal against Digvijaya Singh, former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.
Upon being announced as the BJP candidate, Thakur described the contest as a “dharma yudh” (religious war) a novel way to pitch an election battle.
Thakur, who is currently out on bail after having spent nine years in jail, effortlessly put all of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s dog whistle speeches in the shade by saying a senior police official was killed because she “cursed him”.
For context. The official was a decorated IPS official Hemant Karkare. He made the supreme sacrifice – dying on duty for India in the horrific 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. Karkare was given an Ashok Chakra to mark his bravery.
The senior police official was also in charge of the Anti-Terror Squad in Maharashtra police, which investigated the Malegaon blasts in 2008, where Thakur is an accused. She was born in the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh. Thakur has worked with the RSS’ student wing ABVP, and the Durga Vahini of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. She was granted bail by the Bombay High Court in 2017 after spending nine years in jail on health grounds as she is suffering from breast cancer. The short haired Thakur has a history of Muslim baiting inflammatory speeches.
The disrespect to a martyr shocked a nation, which has become desensitized, inured to near daily lynchings, which are now tucked away in the inside pages of newspapers, reduced to a few bald lines.
The BJP first tried to brazen out Thakur’s comments claiming it was her “personal view”. Later, Thakur offered a bizarre apology, saying her remarks had made enemy countries happy and so she is withdrawing her comments. That was it. Not one word of remorse or regret for her vile utterances about a man who is not around to defend himself.
Make no mistake, Thakur despite, sounding like a crude, unhinged terror accused is likely to win Bhopal, a BJP citadel for 30 years. But also make no mistake, this is an inflection point in Indian politics. The BJP, by fielding a terror accused, has shown the world Modi and Shah’s toxic politics, hurt India’s case on terror and much like the demolition of the Babri Masjid, sowed the seeds for extreme polarisation and communal discord.
Modi and Shah have sent into unceremonious exile the original Hindutva warriors and party founders – LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi and given birth to even more extreme new age warriors. These include Yogi Adityanath, the extremist monk turned chief minister of India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh, and now Pragya Thakur.
Modi anointed Adityanath has earned the dubious distinction of being benched by the Election Commission for 72 hours for his communal speeches.
Thakur is the latest in an unbroken continuum, starting from Advani who blazed a trail of blood across India with his Rath Yatra. Modi emerged as his true heir post the 2002 riots in Gujarat all leading unerringly to Yogi and Thakur.
The BJP’s politics of polarisation has cost India. And the only reason that Modi and Shah have ratcheted up the communalism is the because they are desperate to win the 2019 elections.
Thakur was inducted on the eve of phase two of the polling after reports emerged that BJP had not done well in the first phase. Modi’s Balakot bounce seemed to have fizzled out and the country is set to vote on bread and butter issues.
Shah immediately reached for his default mode – extreme, hard Hindutva and to hell with the consequences of destroying the polity. Despite claiming to be the über nationalism party, the BJP has become the first party to field a terror accused. Imagine how the BJP would have howled if it had been any Opposition party.
This desperation to reduce politics to a zero sum game is the hallmark of Modi and Shah’s vitiated politics. Both threaten the Opposition not as political rivals but as enemies. Shah talks of an India without an Opposition -- his famous “Congress mukt (free) Bharat” refrain.
Modi calls a former prime minister and vice president “traitors”. Anybody who does not vote for the BJP is an “anti-national”. Shah refers to poor Bangladeshi refugees as termites and routinely others Muslims.
Will this despicable politics win them the election? Several scenarios exist.
Modi, who had grafted the “vikas” (development) image has shed it totally, emerging as the polariser-in-chief. This will have the effect of herding the committed BJP voter to him and the RSS, which suggested and insisted on Thakur’s candidature to put its giant army behind the BJP, going door to door to get the vote out.
The Opposition has chosen not to react to the Thakur provocation, not falling into the trap that the BJP has set for them. Modi and Shah will have to do the hard work of polarisation all by themselves.
However, putting the onus on the voter, who has been assiduously fed the drip feed of hate, is a hard ask. Expecting Bhopal to stop Thakur and not send a terror accused to Parliament as a law maker is tough. No party should give the voters such a terrible choice.
But if a plural, secular India has to survive the voter has to rise above the DNA of hate. Whoever is invested in the idea of India will fervently hope that she does.