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14 July, 2019 11:13:43 AM
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Will BJP walk the talk?

The gun brandishing MLA was shot on video which has gone viral. Worse still there were no signs of remorse
KUMKUM CHADHA
Will BJP walk the talk?
Pranav Singh Champion

Four guns,  three in two hands and one in the mouth and a dance to a Bollywood number plus use of vulgar language while gulping down whiskey: a semi clad BJP MLA reportedly celebrating his home-coming after a leg-surgery. Could be that he wanted to test the strength of his post-operative leg or better still demonstrate that he is drunk on power? Or send a message that being a lawmaker of the ruling party he has a license to do what he wants with no rules of decency in place?
It is an interesting coincidence that his second name is Champion: Pranav Singh Champion to set the record straight. A member of the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly he has, in the past, served as a minister in the state government. He hails from a royal family.
He was among the nine Congress MLAs who had rebelled against Harish Rawat and crossed over to the BJP in 2016.  Hewanted a ticket for his wife for the Lok Sabha polls from Haridwar and had described the then sitting MP from the seat and now HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank as a "migratory bird". The gun brandishing MLA’s vulgarity  was shot on video which has gone viral. Worse still there were no signs of  remorse, Instead the errant lawmaker has said “They are licensed weapons and not loaded. I am not pointing them at anyone or threatening anyone. What's the crime? Is drinking alcohol and keeping licensed guns a crime," alleging a conspiracy against him. Completely unapologetic, he dismissed the incident as a non-issue saying that such things are common when one is under the influence of alcohol: "I am sorry for using foul language and abusing but you should also understand that such things happen when you are drunk."
Champion was already under suspension from the party on grounds of indiscipline and misbehaviour. The recent dance in a drunken state  brandishing weapons has just worsened the situation, leaving the BJP red-faced and with little option except to extend his suspension from three months to an indefinite period. A notice has also been issued to him and he has been asked to explain why he should not be expelled from the party: “Indiscipline could not be tolerated”  was the stand of the state leadership of the BJP.  Champion is no stranger to controversies. He was in the news a couple of months ago for publicly indulging in a war of words with a colleague and challenging him to a wrestling bout.  Another video had gone viral last month, in which he was seen threatening a journalist.
Champion is not the only one. There have been other cases  namely another MLA allegedly abusing an officer in Indore or that of a state minister threatening an officer in Jabalpur in the state of Madhya Pradesh.  There are others: bigger and more influential within the party set-up who have erred and erred gravely. Take the case of  the video of a shocking assault by another Madhya Pradesh lawmaker - Akash Vijayvargiya, son of senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya – that too went viral. MLA Akash Vijayvargiya, the son of party leader Kailash Vijayvargiya, was caught on camera assaulting a municipal corporation officer on Wednesday with a cricket bat during an argument over a demolition drive in Ganji compound area.
Amid heated exchange, Akash Vijayvargiya brought out a cricket bat and started hitting an officer who was talking over his mobile phone, an act recorded on camera. Supporters of the MLA also attacked the officer and abused him while police personnel present at the spot tried to bring the situation under control. On Sunday, when Akash walked out of prison, he was accorded  a grand welcome; the day before, some supporters fired shots in the air to celebrate his bail. Party workers who had gathered outside the prison welcomed him with garlands.Though he had refused to apologise or express regret for his act, Akash had said he would follow the path of Gandhi in future.
Very influential in the party hierarchy, Kailash Vijayvargiya, has attacked the government and the bureaucracy on  Twitter. There is enough resentment in the party rank and file because action has not been taken against Vijayvargiya given that he is a national unit office-bearer.
 The party did react but only after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tough talk. The PM had also chastised those celebrating his release on bail. During a party meeting in Delhi on Tuesday, Modi had said that “whoever it may be, whoever’s son he may be, such arrogance, misbehavior cannot be tolerated”. Though Modi did not mention any particular incident, it was a clear reference to Kailash Vijayvargiya's son and his assault on a municipal officer.
Whether this happened because of the inaction against Akash or because the party was being accused of double standards is difficult to say but the fact remains that the BJP leadership is under fire from its own men and women. A  BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh who was suspended for his remarks on Mahatma Gandhi, has questioned the inaction against Vijayvargiya junior. Anil Saumitra, the then MP BJP’s media co-ordination head, was suspended in May for calling Gandhi ‘father of the nation of Pakistan’. The party is yet to reinstate him.
Saumitra said three leaders were served show cause notices for their remarks on Nathuram Godse and it seemed the party was content with their response and hence, no action was initiated. “However, in my case, I was asked by the party to furnish my reply, but I was suspended even before I could respond,” he added.
Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, now an elected MP,  was served a showcause notice by the BJP leadership after her controversial statement calling Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse a "patriot".
PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had rebuked Sadhvi Pragya for voicing support for Nathuram Godse on his killing the Mahatma.
PM Modi had said at an election rally that he would never forgive Sadhvi Pragya for saying what she said on Godse.  Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur had also courted controversy when she said that Hemant Karkare, Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad chief who died during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, got what he deserved. She said the IPS officer died because of his 'karma' referring to his investigation which led to the arrest of Pragya and other Hindutva outfit members.  Against this backdrop the Prime Minister’s observations raised hopes that the party leadership will move in and put the Prime minister’s words to concrete action.
Modi in no uncertain terms said thatthere is a culture which has started in the party where MPs, MLAs and people involved in the organization indulge in indiscipline. He said that such incidents bring the party a bad name and are unacceptable: “Even if people are family members of anybody in the party, such actions will not be tolerated and there will be no exception. Whoever it may be, whoever’s son he may be... such arrogance, misbehaviour cannot be tolerated," he said, adding that people cannot be allowed to get away doing or saying whatever they wish.
The Prime Minister has set the tone which has served as a reassurance to the party rank and file that there will not be two sets of rules for those who cross the line. But what remains to be seen is that will the party leadership walk the talk? Or is this yet another case of double speak when words remain mere words and ring hollow?

 

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com)

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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